Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is calling it quits for the third and definitely last time. He was informed on Monday by his doctor that a recent spinal cord injury could become debilitating if he were to continue riding.
Stevens was involved in a post-parade incident on Saturday at Del Mar that left his right arm numb. He did ride one more race that day but took off his only mount on Sunday.
“I had an MRI on Monday and the C-4 is up against the spinal cord,” Stevens told the Daily Racing Form, who first reported his retirement on Tuesday. “[Dr. James] Tibone didn’t mince any words. He said, ‘You’re done.’
“I was getting close anyway. Now it will be time to pursue other things, but thank God I’m not in a wheelchair.”
The 55-year-old announced his first retirement when he was 42 in 1999 after a series of knee injuries. It came a month after his 5,000th win but he was gone only for 10 months.
His second retirement came in late 2005, again citing more knee problems. He went to work as a TV analyst for NBC, TVG and HRTV. In 2003, he played jockey George Woolf in the movie “Seabiscuit.” In 2011, he was a regular on the dark horse-racing series on HBO called “Luck,” about the seamy side of racing and gambling. The show was shut down in 2012 after the deaths of several horses during filming at Santa Anita.
Stevens returned to regular riding in 2013 and won the Preakness Stakes aboard Oxbow that year. The Idaho native has won the Kentucky Derby three times. He first won in 1988 aboard the filly Winning Colors, followed by wins in 1995 with Thunder Gulch and 1997 on Silver Charm, who came a Belmont Stakes victory short of winning the Triple Crown. He won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes three times each.
Stevens has won 11 Breeders’ Cup races. His career closes with 5,187 wins in 29,442 starts. The horses he rode won more than $258 million. He was elected in racing’s hall of fame in 1997.
Southern California’s famed jockey colony boasted four Hall of Famers, which will now be down to three. Mike Smith and Kent Desormeaux still ride while Victor Espinoza hopes to return near the end of the year. Espinoza suffered a spinal injury on July 22 and has been in rehabilitation since then.