Stevens Collects 5,000th Win at Belmont Park

By Claire Novak
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens earned his 5,000th career win at Belmont when he piloted Joint Aspiration to victory in the $69,950 Gaviola Stakes on Sunday.

Trained by Jeremy Noseda, Fergus Galvin's British-bred filly went 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:441 and returned 12.80, 6.90, and 5.20.

"Watching Gary reach this milestone was so special," said fellow rider Mike Smith. "He's a phenomenal rider with a real love for the horse, a love for the game. If you watch his races, you can see how he's so versatile ... it doesn't matter where he's riding. He's the ultimate professional."

Stevens win came after a disappointing Breeders' Cup that began when the well-fancied Rock Hard Ten was scratched from the Classic (gr. I) with a foot injury. He was then blanked in six mounts on Breeders' Cup day.

Moving his tack to Kentucky in 2004, the 42-year-old Stevens plans to continue to divide his time between West Coast and bluegrass racing.

"We'll do the meet at Churchill," said the jockey's agent, Craig O'Brian. "Then we'll ride in California from January through the first of April," he said. "After that we'll come back to Kentucky again."

An Eclipse award winning rider, Stevens started racing quarter horses in 1977 when he was 14. He won his first Thoroughbred race two years later at Les Bois Park in Idaho, spent several successful years racing in Washington, then went on to become a top rider on the Southern California circuit.

In 1993 he passed the $100 million career earnings mark and became the youngest rider in racing history to do so. Stevens also found international success while racing in Europe for several years, with his most notable victory coming in the 1998 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) aboard Silver Charm. He "retired" for 10 months with a knee injury in 1999.

Over his past 26 years of racing, Stevens has earned more than fifteen riding titles. He has eight Breeders' Cup wins to his credit, including the 2000 Mile with War Chant, the 1998 Juvenile Fillies on Silverbulletday, and the 1996 Mile on Da Hoss. He has also won eight Triple Crown races to date: three Kentucky Derbies (Winning Colors – 1988, Thunder Gulch – 1995, Silver Charm – 1997), two Preakness Stakes (Silver Charm – 1997, Point Given – 1998), and three Belmont Stakes (Thunder Gulch – 1994, Victory Gallop – 1998, Point Given 2001).

He also earned plaudits for his acting ability playing George Woolf in the movie "Seabiscuit."

As of Saturday, Stevens stood 12th in yearly standings with $8,962,510 in purse earnings while winning at a 19% clip and an in-the-money rate of 48%. He has 87 victories this year.

(Chart, Equibase)