This year’s Kentucky Derby will mark the return of jockey Gary Stevens to the starting gate. After seven years of retirement from riding, Stevens will be back in the irons aboard Derby starter Oxbow. The 50 year old Stevens says he began to feel the urge to return to the saddle about a year and a half ago, and became more serious about a comeback after starting a new training regimen. He says stepping away and working as an NBC racing analyst have given him a fresh perspective.
"I’ve got a new appreciation for what I had and what I have now," said Stevens, "and the opportunities that I’ve received. I don’t feel a lot of pressure going into this Derby and I’m very at ease with it."
Stevens has ridden three Kentucky Derby winners, including two from the barn of Oxbow trainer D. Wayne Lucas.
Saturday’s race will be televised by NBC Sports and for the third year, Larry Collmus will call the race for millions of viewers.
Larry Collmus took over the network’s Triple Crown announcing duties following the resignation of longtime announcer Tom Durkin, who stepped down after 27 years for health reasons.
The Baltimore native says keeping pace with 20 thoroughbreds running at full speed is a daunting but rewarding task.
"Normally for a race-caller, to prepare for calling a race it takes about a half an hour or so," said Collmus, "but for the Kentucky Derby is takes about three, four months to start looking at these horses and getting them ingrained in your head. Just a couple of years ago I was the new guy on the scene and now I feel like a grizzled veteran."
Collmus is also the regular track announcer at Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Gulfstream Park in Florida.
He’s part of an NBC Sports crew of about 250 at Churchill Downs this week for the Kentucky Derby and related coverage.