LOUISVILLE -- Horse racing is fundamentally about time. But jockey Gary Stevens has managed to stop the clock. At 52, he'll be the oldest jockey in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
"A lot of these guys weren't even born when I won my first Kentucky Derby," said Stevens.
That victory was in 1988 -- 27 years ago. Stevens has won three Derbies, and all the biggies: Preaknesses, Belmonts, the Breeders Cup. But 10 years ago it all ended when his knee finally gave out, forcing him to retire.
Still, Stevens stayed busy as a television analyst. He even had an acting role in the movie "Seabiscuit."
But after seven years away, he yearned to get back in the saddle for real.
"Everybody's like, 'Are you nuts?' and I guess I am, but inside I feel like I did in my late 20s," said Stevens. "I don't really have anything to prove. I've always had a fire that burns inside me to prove people wrong."
And prove them wrong he did with a comeback for the ages -- not bad for a grandfather of two. Stevens has had some horrific spills but he's determined to keep the Derby dream alive.
When asked what drives him, Stevens answered: "The power, the beauty, the adrenaline rush and the feeling of succeeding, or the realization of failure."
Saturday, Stevens will ride a brawny colt named "Firing Line" -- a top contender who could land him back in the winner's circle. For Stevens, the race never gets old.
"I love the big days - the big races - that's what brings out the best in me," said Stevens.