Gary Stevens' voice was weak in a teleconference held Wednesday, but his words were strong. He plans on returning to the saddle after he recovers from a punctured lung and a compression fracture of a vertebra in his back when he was thrown from Storming Home at the finish of Saturday's Arlington Million (gr. IT).
"I want 100% recuperation," said Stevens from Del Mar, Calif., where he flew Tuesday after being released from Northwest Community Hospital in Illinois. "I want to make sure my lungs are healthy, that my back is healthy, and that I'm confident I can go out there and do my job as I have in the past. As I lie here right now there's no doubt I can do my job. I definitely want to get back out there and ride again."
With that said, Stevens said he still has a lot of pain and he is "reaching for air." He said he still has a wound where a chest tube was inserted in the hospital, and he is still in search of a specialist to more fully diagnose and treat his back injury.
"Just below my neck, in between my shoulder blades, there is a shooting pain running into my shoulder and down my arm when I turn my neck a certain way. My first goal this afternoon will be to find a specialist here to re-analyze everything and go through things. Last night was a very uncomfortable night, so I want to figure out exactly what's going on."
Stevens estimated he'd be out of commission for a month, "that is the max," he said. "After seeing the spill myself (on tape), I'm just glad I'm alive right now." He said he is unable to remember any specifics of the fall itself. The last thing he remembers is entering the stretch. "My horse was very focused and I was very confident my horse was going to win the race," he said. The next thing he said remembering is realizing he was injured, "and injured very seriously. On the way to the hospital I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I was dying. I"d never felt the type of pain in my chest I was experiencing."
Stevens was scheduled to be aboard Candy Ride this Sunday in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar. While he expressed disappointment that he could not make the race on horseback, he said he was looking forward to watching the race from the ground.
"I'm pretty a realistic guy, it's just not possible," Stevens said. "The way I feel right now, riding is the last thing on my mind."