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Jockey Gary Stevens on Preakness: I can't wait

Firing Line with Gary Stevens after winning the Sunland DerbyThe jockey Gary Stevens was trying to find the right words — and wondering if words would do — to describe the experience of riding Firing Line as he dueled American Pharoah down the stretch in the Kentucky Derby.

“Every emotion in your body, from head to toe, is lit up as high as it can get,” he said of battling in front of a record crowd of 170,513 at Churchill Downs.

Although Firing Line finished second to American Pharoah by one length, the thrill of the chase goes a long way toward explaining why Stevens twice returned after retiring, why he was back in the saddle 91 days after a right knee replacement, and why he eagerly anticipates a rematch Saturday in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

“We’re going to try to turn the tables,” Stevens, 52, said. “And I can’t wait.”

It would seem to many onlookers as though Stevens has nothing left to prove. His reputation as one of the finest jockeys in history was secured long ago. He won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes three times apiece. He gained his first Triple Crown race triumph aboard the front-running filly Winning Colors in the Kentucky Derby in 1988. He demonstrated that he remained a master of pace when Oxbow benefited from modest fractions in taking the Preakness two years ago.

Read more of this Tom Pedulla story at The New York Times


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