Gary Stevens back at the Kentucky Derby

The Idaho native, once retired, will ride Oxbow in May 4 race


Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, right, talks with fellow jockey Rafael Bejarano before the $1 million Arkansas Derby earlier this month. Oxbow was considered an Arkansas Derby contender, but finished fifth in a field of 10 horses.

DANNY JOHNSTON — The Associated Press

Gary Stevens is smiling - he's going back to the Kentucky Derby.

As a jockey.

Not as a television analyst.

Stevens, who has won three Derbys and eight Triple Crown races in his Hall of Fame career, came out of retirement earlier this year but only recently confirmed a ride aboard Oxbow for the biggest event in horse racing.

Stevens - a former Capital High student who launched his career at Les Bois Park - worked Oxbow in 1 minute, 1 second over 5 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Monday.

"I'm a happy man, and Oxbow is a happy horse. Confidence booster this morning. Nice work out,'' Stevens tweeted Monday.

Oxbow is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who partnered with Stevens to win the Kentucky Derby in 1988 (Winning Colors) and 1995 (Thunder Gulch). Stevens also won the Derby in 1997 (Silver Charm).

But Stevens, now 50, retired in November 2005 and launched a television broadcasting career that included Triple Crown work for NBC. He returned to racing in January and quickly picked up his first victory at Santa Anita in California, where he resides.

"I'm just excited about getting on a good horse," Stevens told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Monday. "It just happens to be the Kentucky Derby. We're coming into it the right way. I've come here on both sides of the fence, where things aren't going 100 percent, and that's not a good feeling.

"I have a smile on my face right now. I let him bounce right away from the pole this morning, and the fractions were very easy. He's a happy horse, extremely happy. He went around there with his ears up all the way."

TOP 10 DERBY CONTENDERS (From the Associated Press)

1. Verrazano (Todd Pletcher, trainer; John Velazquez, jockey): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 Sunday at Churchill Downs, third fastest of 40 at the same distance. ... Wood winner is unbeaten in all four starts and will try to become the eighth unbeaten Derby winner. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 4. ... Final Derby future wager odds: 7-1.

2. Orb (Shug McGaughey, Joel Rosario): Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby winner worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 Sunday at Payson Park. ... Gets original rider back now that Johnny V has chosen Verrazano. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.

3. Revolutionary (Pletcher, Calvin Borel): Louisiana Derby winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.80 Sunday at Churchill Downs. ... 2-for-2 this year after winning one of four as a 2-year-old. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 12-1.

4. Goldencents (Doug O'Neill, Kevin Krigger): Worked 4 furlongs in 48.40 last week at Santa Anita. ... O'Neill on way to Churchill to try and win second straight Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 49-1.

5. Overanalyze (Pletcher, Rafael Bejarano): Don't underrate Arkansas Derby winner, who also won the Remsen and Futurity Stakes ... Owner Mike Repole thrilled to have Derby fever again. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 49-1.

6. Normandy Invasion (Chad Brown, Javier Castellano): Despite only a maiden win in five races, colt is considered one of the "now" horses for the Derby after strong second in Wood. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 18-1.

7. Itsmyluckyday (Eddie Plesa Jr., Elvis Trujillo): Worked 1 mile in 1:43.20 at Calder last week. ... Holy Bull winner and Florida Derby runner-up has one more workout planned, then ships to Churchill Downs on Friday. ... One of most experienced Derby starters, with five wins, two seconds and a third in 10 races. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 10-1.

8. Java's War (Kenny McPeek, Julien Leparoux): Ended three-race losing streak with Blue Grass win. ... Both trainer and rider looking for first Derby wins. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 31-1.

9. Palace Malice (Pletcher, Mike Smith): Another maiden winner also considered a "now" pick after running second in the Blue Grass. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 42-1.

10 (tie) Will Take Charge (D. Wayne Lukas, Jon Court): Rebel winner worked 1 mile in 1:41.60 Sunday at Churchill Downs. ... Comes into Derby off seven-week break. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 19-1.

10 (tie) Mylute (Tom Amoss, Rosie Napravnik): Louisiana Derby runner-up posted impressive workout at Churchill Downs on Sunday — 4 furlongs in 47.80, the fastest of 81 horses at the same distance. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 5-1 (mutuel field).

Keep an eye on: Black Onyx, Frac Daddy, Govenor Charlie, Oxbow, Vyjack.

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