Daily Racing Form
by Jay Privman
DEL MAR, Calif. – There were many chapters to the riding career of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens over his near 40-year career, which ended with his retirement on Tuesday, but some of his best moments were saved for the end, including victories in races like the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Pacific Classic with the great mare Beholder.
Richard Mandella, the trainer of Beholder, had a long association with Stevens, including wins in races like the 1997 Pacific Classic with Gentlemen. But they did some of their best work with Beholder, and Mandella said Stevens was instrumental in her success.
“It had a lot to do with the confidence we had in each other,” Mandella said at his Del Mar barn on Wednesday morning. “I asked him to try to rate her. He respected that, and he did it. He was one of the great riders. He was always one of my most important riders.”
Beholder’s victory in the 2015 Pacific Classic marked the only time in the race’s 28 runnings that a female has won the race. More than one year later, Beholder ended her career in dramatic fashion with a nose victory over Songbird in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, her second win in that race.
“She was a monster when Gary gave her her signal,” Mandella said. “In the Breeders’ Cup, the other mare ran her race, too. That’s the kind of race you come here to see.
“It’s sad that he’s retiring, but I’m glad he’s retiring fairly healthy.”
Stevens announced on Tuesday that he was retiring immediately from riding after his long-time orthopedist informed him he has a spinal injury that could lead to a far more serious issue if he were to fall.
“I had an MRI on Monday and the C-4 is up against the spinal cord,” Stevens said of his examination with Dr. James Tibone. “Tibone didn’t mince any words. He said, ‘You’re done.’ ”
“There won’t be any comeback from this one,” Stevens said, laughing, referencing his two previous comebacks from retirements.
Stevens was injured in the post parade on Saturday at Del Mar and said: “My right arm went numb. It was almost like a whiplash effect.”