Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who has won over 5,000 races during his career that started back in 1979, made his return to the track earlier this month. Stevens had been missing from the racetrack since undergoing hip replacement surgery on December 21.
The 54-year-old Stevens’ comeback took place on March 9 at Santa Anita Park in a six-furlong $38,0000 claiming race on top of Oopper Wallah. The duo finished in second place. He later went on to ride Jabber Now to a sixth-place finish in a $54,000 maiden special weight race on the same card.
“It felt great, but I’m a little winded right now,” said Stevens, following the runner-up finish to A.P. Zona. “He put me right in the race and I had to ride him there and I thought he might get up.”
When asked how his hip held up following the race, Stevens said he felt “nothing” and had an inkling he’d only be out a few weeks following surgery.
“I’ve tested it pretty good (during morning workouts),” said Stevens. “It really is (rewarding). It was a lot of hard work. I didn’t know (if I would be able to come back).
“You never know, but about the third week after the surgery, there was no doubt. After the surgery it was just instant relief.”
This was the second time Stevens made a comeback following a replacement surgery. In 2014, the 1998 Eclipse Outstanding Jockey award winner underwent knee replacement surgery. In his return to the track, he won 31 graded stakes races in 2015-2016.