After several months in Europe where he was riding under contract for international horseman Andre Fabre, the 41-year-old Hall of Fame jockey has his game face on for the Oak Tree meet that starts at Santa Anita tomorrow and runs for 26 days through Oct. 31.
"I’m planning on going hard at Oak Tree and lining up Breeders’ Cup mounts," said Stevens, who put his handsome mug on the show business map with an artful portrayal of George Woolf in the blockbuster film, "Seabiscuit."
Potential Breeders’ Cup mounts include unbeaten Mile candidate Art Master, Nebraska Tornado (Filly and Mare Turf) and Polish Summer (Turf), all trained by Fabre.
With racing’s greatest day a month away at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 30, Stevens is seriously weighing his offers. He is first to admit his invasion of France was not as successful as, say, that of the gallant GI’s in World War II.
"I was disappointed with Deauville," Stevens said. "Some of our horses developed temperatures a couple days after they had run and it rained there for 30 straight days. The ground was difficult. We had a couple of seconds and thirds but I couldn’t really come back with a lot of input (helpful information for trainers) with the ground the way it was. It was more frustrating than disappointing. I won five or six stakes races in August which was tops for the Deauville meeting, but overall the team was disappointed and frustrated with our results.
"Still, there were some nice surprises. The filly Gray Lilas came back and won a Group 1 (Prix du Moulin). I won a Group 2 on her and she came back 10 days later and beat the boys. Andre called to thank me for the work I had done with her and that was a nice. Hopefully, everything will stay together for us for Breeders’ Cup and we’ll have some action for Andre."
If not, there’s always acting. Stevens revealed no pending film offers, but said a television gig could be imminent.
"I might be hosting a reality TV show, but I can’t say much more right now because it’s not definite," Stevens said. "If it’s picked up by the network then it’s a done deal and we’ll start filming immediately after the Breeders’ Cup. It’s not going to occupy too much of my time and there’s no conflict with my riding because it’s after Breeders’ Cup. I’d work seven straight days doing some filming and after the first of the year I would have a one-day commitment of working on the show, if it happens. It’s not a major network, it’s a cable network but it’s with the right people. I should be able to say more about it soon."
But back to riding. Plagued by arthritic knees late in his career, Stevens is unconcerned with that at present, although he did overcome a disquieting health emergency at Del Mar.
"My knees are great," Stevens said, "but I had one scary day after the Del Mar Derby when I got dehydrated and had to go to the hospital and get a couple liters of fluid put in me. I wasn’t used to the heat and I pulled some weight before the races started.
"But now I’m healthy and feel good. In fact, I just got back from a four-day fishing trip in Cabo San Lucas where I caught a 150-pound bluefin tuna."
Now you know a guy has to be healthy to catch a fish that weighs more than he does.
THE HOMESTRETCH: Garrett Gomez is eager to resume riding on a major circuit after prepping for his Oak Tree return at Fairplex Park’s 5/8 of a mile bullring. "It was beneficial," the 32-year-old Tucson native said of his Fairplex experience. "My goal was to get fit and I won a few races, so that was gravy. But I’m excited to get back into the mainstream." Gomez was sidelined from Dec. 12, 2002, until Sept. 20, 2004, recovering from substance abuse problems. "My weight ballooned to 147 pounds at one point and when I stepped on the scale and saw that, I kind of freaked," he said. "I was going through depression and would eat to satisfy my mood, and I wasn’t exercising. I had no life. But once I started exercising and becoming a member of society again, I dropped to 130 pretty quick." ... After being turned out for more than three months, Halfbridled is back jogging for Richard Mandella. The Hall of Fame trainer says the 2-year-old filly champion of 2003 is being readied for the Santa Anita winter/spring meeting ... Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainers Julio Canani and Larry Ross will answer questions and autograph photos at the Orleans Race Book on Monday, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. Ralph Siroco hosts. Be there, because Canani can be a hoot. The native of Peru once told a press conference that he and Gov. Schwarzenegger had one thing in common. "Neither of us can speak English." ... The best thing about the Los Angeles County Fair meet wasn’t Martin Pedroza breaking the single-season record of 48 wins set by David Flores in 1991, but the TV commercials with those adorable kids who said that "Gucci sweaters" come from sheep ... Ichiro is a terrific ball player, but for him to break George Sisler’s hit record by playing in eight more games than old George did just doesn’t add up.