Gary Stevens will resume his riding career, no ifs, ands or buts.
“I am coming back,” Stevens said unequivocally, less than two months since replacement surgery of his right knee July 25. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘Are you going to try?’, and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to try. I am.’ That’s all there is to it. Case closed.
“I’m going through therapy and everything’s ahead of schedule. I have no pain now. I’ll be on horses very soon.”
With Gary Stevens’ knee surgery costing him the mount on Beholder, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer opting to make a rider change on Shared Belief, Mike Smith was the beneficiary in both instances, gaining access to both champions.
“I try not to stop and think about it too much because I just wonder how a man can be so blessed,” said the 49-year-old Smith, riding as good as he did when he was 20 years younger.
“I start to feel a little bit guilty. To ride these types of horses at this point in my career is hard to put into words.
“I’m happy to be getting these opportunities and I’m going to make the most of them. I’m working hard to make sure that I do. As long as I keep doing that, maybe they’ll keep coming.”
Smith has no qualms about the talent of Shared Belief, no matter on what surface the male 2-year-old champion of 2013 runs.
Unbeaten in six starts, Shared Belief would be making only his second start on conventional dirt in the Awesome Again, having won the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby on July 5, after which he defeated older horses in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Polytrack Aug. 24.
“I think he’d run just as well on the grass,” Smith said. “He’s a very athletic horse. Secretariat could run over the dirt and the grass. I’m certainly not going to compare Shared Belief to him, but he has the kind of ability that shows me he could run over anything, dirt or different synthetics.
“In fact, I bet you could put him on the grass and he’d just smoke around there. He’s just an extremely talented horse.”