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Betting Horse Racing - Class Personified

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 1/7/2013 5:52:10 PM

Some say that 50 is the new 30 and online sports betting site players will have a new jockey to scrutinize as the 49-year-old Gary Stevens is making a comeback.

I once had a female friend in Los Angeles that was one of the biggest race fans and the best woman handicapper I ever knew. She didn’t know a Beyer speed figure from the Sheets but she had savvy and knew people. After meeting Stevens at the Cockatoo Inn, the establishment used in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, she told me Stevens would become one of the best riders ever.           

I was not buying. He had a modest past, and even though his brother was a rider, and his father was a trainer, he had learned his skill riding quarter horses in the bushes. He did win with his first mount, but it was at Les Bois Park in Idaho, far from the Mecca of racing in this country.

What I didn’t know was that my friend knew as much about the intricacies of racing as she did about heart and she saw in Gary’s face the eye of the tiger.

It takes a big man to admit being wrong and how wrong I was?

Stevens made his horse betting comeback Sunday at Santa Anita in the 6th race and he made it interesting. He sat a super 2-hole trip with Jebrica, made the top in deep stretch, but lost by a neck.

Stevens’ prior accomplishments on the track are well documented. He won at least 15 riding titles, 8 Triple Crown races including 3 Kentucky Derbies, captured 8 Breeders’ Cup races, was best in the Santa Anita Derby 9 times, entered the Racing Hall of Fame in 1997 and a year later won the Eclipse Award as the best rider in the country.

His best and near perfect ride in his own words was the 1998 Belmont Stakes when Victory Gallop spoiled the Triple Crown bid of Real Quiet when Stevens timed his nose win to perfection.

To watch Stevens on a daily basis became a treat. He seldom made a mental error and appeared to have his horse in the right position just about every time. He could coax the speed from a speed horse as judiciously as Judge Rehnquist. Was great stalking and then getting first jump on the deep closers. And he could come from left field because he let his horse relax and was patient enough to let the race unfold.

Stevens’ coming out party was in the 1988 Kentucky Derby with Winning Colors but the SA Derby that year is etched in my mind.

The Derby field in Arcadia that season was not stellar. But the way Winning Colors won, pretty much doing it on her own as Gary sat like a statue, was truly a remarkable visual feat. She won by an authoritative 8 lengths.

Can you thrive just a decade before reaching Social Security? Why not, Russell Baze, at the age of 54, won more races in 2012 than anyone alive.

Stevens has already branched out and acting became an option. He played a key role on HBO’s Luck and on his role in Seabiscuit, Stevens had this to say on his website: “I was very intimidated by the idea of acting to say the least. But what me feel more comfortable was that I was a fan of George Woolf. I had my 25th birthday party in his old apartment about the Derby Restaurant and I really felt like I knew the guy.”

For a man that had to spend over a year and a half in a leg brace as a young boy, Stevens learned to walk, then run to the winner’s circle.

And here’s hoping he runs to that sportsbook ‘charmed circle’ many more times.

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