Friday, May 2, 2003

Hollywood life suits Stevens


Jockey enjoyed Seabiscuit role

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOUISVILLE - Gary Stevens is trying to ride Buddy Gil, a horse that learned to race on a farm in Idaho and was a late nominee to the Triple Crown series, to a Kentucky Derby triumph.

Stevens knows a thing or two about storybook endings.

Besides having three Derby victories to his credit, the Hall of Famer played the role of jockey George Woolf in the upcoming movie Seabiscuit.

He's raving about the experience. Even though arthritic knees that once knocked him into retirement couldn't keep him from coming back, Stevens said he might quit riding to become an actor.

"I'm just following the lead of Gary Ross, the director, and Kathy Kennedy, the producer," he said. "They'd like to see me stay involved.

"It's a heck of a lot easier on my body than riding horses. And at 40 years old, to get the opportunity at a new career, I'll stick with it a little while."

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Stevens, who returned to riding in the fall of 2000 after a year working as an assistant trainer, took five months off to film the movie. He returned in February and has been 3-for-3 aboard Buddy Gil.

Meanwhile, Ross and Kennedy set up a management team for Stevens, and he said he is reading a couple of scripts for non-racing pictures. Stevens said he wouldn't commit to his next role until after the Seabiscuit premiere July 25.

"I didn't know what to expect," Stevens said of his Seabiscuit role. "I'm no film critic or acting critic, but obviously they're very happy with the way things went."

Woolf took over the Seabiscuit mount from Red Pollard, who'll be played in the film by Tobey Maguire, and rode him to his famous match-race victory over War Admiral. The George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, for contributions to the sport, is awarded annually; Stevens won it in 1996.

Saturday, Stevens will be racing against Ross and Kennedy. They are part of a group of Hollywood big wigs that bought 10 percent of Atswhatimtalknbout.

That group got involved because of the enthusiasm for the horse of retired jockey Chris McCarron, who worked as a consultant on Seabiscuit.

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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