It was the perfect Hollywood ending.
Jockey Gary Stevens retired after a hall-of-fame career, instead racing horses in an HBO series about a washed up rider. But the series was cancelled and Stevens recently returned to the saddle after seven years.
Maybe Stevens' next movie will be about a big heist because he stole the 138th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday. Oxbow led nearly the entire 1 3/16th miles for a stunning 15 to 1 upset.
"When I hit the half-mile pole, I said, 'Are you kidding me? Is this happening?" Stevens said. "The race was over at that point. I just walked the dog to the half-mile pole."
Stevens was the key. A race with several speedsters was instead a stroll. Oxbow's 1:57 2/5 time was 4 2/5 seconds (18 lengths) behind Secretariat's 1973 Preakness record. Stevens suckered late-runner Mylute into waiting too long while Kentucky Derby winner Orb was never a factor. When the field suddenly ran hard in the final eighth mile, Oxbow had enough left to beat Itsmyluckyday by 1 3/4 lengths with Mylute third and Orb fourth.
"We got a hall-of-fame ride," Oxbow trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "Once [Oxbow] hit that cruising speed, I felt comfortable."
Indeed, the 50-year-old Stevens won his third Preakness to match his three Derby and three Belmont Stakes victories. With devilish good looks certain to one day draw the California rider back to Hollywood filmmakers, Stevens flashed those historic Calumet Farm red silks to its ninth Preakness win all the way back to Citation's 1948 Triple Crown championship.
Orb, who seemed a serious contender for the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years, was fourth. He never ran a lick after encountering tight traffic before the final turn to send long shot bettors to the bank and those backing Orb at 3 to 5 to the poor house.
But Stevens wasn't the only former winner returning to the winner circle. Lukas won his sixth Preakness and record 14th Triple Crown race. The man who dominated thoroughbred racing in the 1980s and '90s seemed an afterthought at age 77 with no Preakness titles since 1999. Bringing three long shots to the Preakness seemed more desperate than a final push for one more title.
Yet, Lukas was once more the surprising winner just like his Codex upset Genuine Risk in the 1980 Preakness.
"It's very gratifying," Lukas said. "I get paid to spoil dreams. You can't mail it in. It's a different surface, a different time. You gotta line them up and run them."
But Oxbow surely didn't enter as a real Preakness contender. He was a poor sixth in the Kentucky Derby and lost four straight. But Stevens just let Oxbow post an easy 1:13 2/5 over the opening three-quarters mile and that left him with plenty of energy down the stretch.
All the way to the winner's circle.