Stevens rides Oxbow to 3rd Preakness win

Although no one really keeps track of such things, Gary Stevens

had no problem making the assessment with complete conviction.

”I guarantee I’m the first grandfather winner of a Triple Crown

race,” said the 50-year-old Stevens, who guided Oxbow to a

stunning upset victory Saturday in the Preakness.

Stevens retired in 2005 after a long struggle with knee pain. He

resumed riding in early January, the same week he got a call from

77-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who told him about a couple of

promising 3-year-old colts who could make the Derby.

One of them was Oxbow.

With Stevens riding confidently in the saddle, Oxbow led from

start to finish and won the Preakness by 1 3/4 lengths to end Orb’s

bid for the Triple Crown. The victory justified Stevens’ decision

to return to racing.

”I’m not going to lie to you, to win a classic at 50 years old

after seven years’ retirement, it doesn’t get any better than

this,” he said. ”This is super, super sweet. All the stars were

aligned. I couldn’t be more pleased winning this thing. It’s even

more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team.”

It was Stevens’ third career victory in the Preakness, the first

since 1997 on Silver Charm.

Oxbow covered the 1 3/16th miles in 1:57.54. The ride, Stevens

said, was easier than it looked.

”A lot of critics are going to think that I’m full of it saying

this, but I won with a little something left, believe it or not,”

Stevens said.

Stevens captured his first Triple Crown race in 1988 for Lukas,

and they have remained close since then.

”Wayne put me on the map,” Stevens said. ”When you win that

first classic, your phone starts ringing and people want you. I got

the call about Oxbow this year dating all the way back to


It was a phone call Lukas won’t ever regret. Although he changed

jockeys on his other two entrants in the Preakness, Lukas remained

convinced that Stevens was the right person to ride Oxbow. For

days, they talked about the best way to run the race. But there’s

really no way to predict what the other horses will do.

”I left it up to Gary,” Lukas said. ”Let me say, I think I

got a Hall of Fame ride. We can plan this thing, we can talk about

it, we can talk about strategy. But once that gate is open, they

have to make the decisions. Gary made some great ones.”

As he was gathering momentum and leaving the other eight horses

in his wake, Stevens couldn’t help but think about the trainer that

provided him with his first Triple Crown winner and got him back

into the game at an age when most jockeys have long since quit.

”I was smiling pretty good on the back side. I actually thought

about Wayne up in the grandstands,” Stevens said. ”I knew he had

to be looking at those fractions and was pleased with what he was


Not long after that, Lukas, Stevens and their brown colt had a

wonderful time in the winner’s circle.

”He wasn’t a tired horse. He was a happy horse,” Stevens said.

”He enjoyed the celebration as much, well maybe not as much as

Wayne and I, but he was enjoying it.”

Next up for Stevens, Lukas and Oxbow: A ride over 1 1/2 miles in

the Belmont on June 8.

”What about the Belmont? This horse has a happy kind of pace,

and anybody that wants to come and tangle with him early on, bring

it on. You’re going to get in trouble if you tangle with him.

That’s all I can say.”

Oh, he had more. As he was wrapping up his press conference,

Stevens said, ”You’re only as good as the horses you ride and the

people that you ride for. And I rode for what I consider to be one

of the greatest trainers of all time.”

Then he looked up and saw Lukas in the corner of the room.

”I didn’t know you were standing there still,” Stevens said.

”Oh, all right. I love you, Wayne.”

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