At age 50, jockeys seldom return to racing but his decision has turned out better than he expected. “I’m in heaven and having a ball and the horses are running well for me. I’m very appreciative of the opportunities that have been given to me, at the level they’ve been given to me.“
Stevens said his physical problems were his reason for retiring from riding. “I was really fighting my weight. I think I had a lot of burn out from racing for so many years, and the pain of my knees, just never giving them proper time to really cool down and stop hurting.
“I went through a fitness program up in Seattle with Dr. Mark Dedomenico who has Pegasus Thoroughbred Training Center, as well as one of the biggest gyms in the country and I spent two months up there,” explains Stevens. “And I got to a level of fitness and my knees weren’t hurting and I said, ‘If I can do this, I can damn sure ride in some races, if we pick and choose a little bit.’”
Stevens will go to Kentucky to ride at the Keeneland and Churchill Downs spring meets. “I still have my home in Louisville and I can’t wait to get back. We’ll be out there for the start of Keeneland. At the end of this month, I’ll be there, that’s home to me.”
Stevens also admits that he hopes to have a Kentucky Derby 2013 mount. “That’s one of the reasons I came back,” he says.
Riding in 2013 Kentucky Derby prep races will be a challenge. “Unfortunately a lot of them fall on the same day and you can only be in one place at one time. The Florida Derby and the Louisiana Derby are on the same day. The Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby are on the same day. And I’ve got an opportunity in each of them so I have to be lucky and wise where I choose to go.”
“I’ve told my bosses at NBC that I’m going to think I’ve got a heck of a shot of winning the Kentucky Derby before I’ll give up my position of sitting next to Tom (Hammond).”