Nightly News   |  June 07, 2013

Jockey Gary Stevens, 50, still leading the pack

After coming in first at the Preakness Stakes in May, Gary Stevens will be back at New York’s Belmont Park where he first raced in 1988. NBC’s Brian Shactman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight when they run the belmont stakes tomorrow in new york , all eyes will be on oxbow and his jockey gary stevens . will they be able to pull off a repeat performance after winning the preakness? for stevens it would be a sweet victory . our story tonight from brian shactman .

>> it's oxbow and gary stevens to win the preakness.

>> coming in first last month gary stevens 's experience served him well. at 50 his ninth victory in a triple crown race was four months after coming out of retirement. he beat jockeys who were still in grade school the first time he won the race.

>> i didn't know whether i would be able to do it. one reason for the comeback was to see if i could.

>> reporter: at new york 's belmont park you can't blame stevens for being nostalgic this week. he first raced here in 1988 when he had a little bit more hair.

>> so i just went into the racing office to get my badge. i hadn't been licensed here since 2005 .

>> reporter: just a year ago he had a different credential as an analyst for nbc sports .

>> kind of small, isn't he?

>> reporter: he was finding success as an actor in "seas y biscuit" and "luck." stevens realized the knees that forced his retirement seven years ago felt good.

>> i got the itch back.

>> reporter: soon after deciding on a comeback he ran into legendary trainer d. wayne lucas who knew stevens was perfect to ride a horse like oxbow into the winner's circle.

>> it's like you're an nfl quarterback. when the game's on the line you want the experienced guy making those decisions. same thing here.

>> reporter: the tradition of horse racing and the prestige of the belmont stakes under scores that being a jockey is a tough job at any age.

>> like going out and driving an indy car without a seat belt . i tell people my knees are like retreads. they're good. you can go along at 70 miles per hour and then the rubber is on the side of the road . it just happens. i'm prepared for that.

>> reporter: until it does, this living legend is back in the saddle and leading the pack. brian shactman , nbc news, e belmont, new york .

>> watch tomorrow on nbc sports network and the big race at 5:00 on this nbc ation.