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– As old as they are, Gary Stevens and Mike Smith are supposed to be a little bitter by now, reminding folks of their former glories while complaining of how they’re being unfairly snubbed while the younger guys get legged up on the better horses. In the context of world-class athletics, yes, they are old: Stevens is 50 and Smith is 48.But when the Breeders’ Cup is run this weekend at Santa Anita for the 30th time, no other riders will be better-mounted, as they say, and that’s a testament to how these two remarkable jockeys are still riding in the same form that got them inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame. Stevens and Smith live just a couple of miles from each other in nearby Sierra Madre, Calif., and have been good friends for nearly 30 years, having leaned on each other frequently to confide in someone who knows precisely the ups and downs of a superstar jockey.
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This latest go-round has inspired awe from those who have known him for decades, including trainer Tom Proctor, for whom Stevens has ridden more than anyone else since his return.
He is scheduled to have nine mounts in the 14 Breeders’ Cup events, to be run Friday and Saturday, including such major contenders as Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, Beholder in the Distaff, Marketing Mix in the Filly and Mare Turf, Indy Point in the Turf, and She’s a Tiger in the Juvenile Fillies.
Mucho Macho Man, second in the Classic last year, won the local prep, the Sept.
That makes it more fun and exciting for me.” Smith, from New Mexico by way of New York and numerous points in between, has spent countless hours and days in the company of Stevens, who is from Idaho by way of Seattle, the pages of People magazine, NBC Sports, and Hollywood – both the soon-to-close racetrack and the famously glitzy movie factory.
Both men are storybook-worthy, their chapters integrated with many truly great feats in racing, their roller-coaster lives humanizing them for the public-at-large to empathize with all they’ve been through.