Gary Stevens has adjusted to this reality before, twice before as a matter of fact. It still didn't make the latest installment any less of a blow to absorb.
The Hall of Fame jockey with two career comebacks already under his belt said Nov. 20 he will be retiring again effectively immediately due to a spinal injury suffered in the post parade of a race at Del Mar this past weekend.
Daily Racing Form was the first to report Stevens' retirement.
Plagued by knee and later hip issues during his stellar career, the 55-year-old Stevens retired twice before, most notably from Nov. 2005 until 2012. During that seven-year hiatus from the saddle, Stevens kept himself in the racing forefront working as an analyst for TVG and NBC Sports as well as HRTV.
Stevens returned in 2013, and he picked up right where he left off at the top level, riding Oxbow to win the Preakness Stakes and, five and a half months later, Mucho Macho Man to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.
When he guided champion Beholder to a memorable win over previously unbeaten Songbird in the 2016 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff, the victory marked his 11th career Breeders' Cup triumph and came 26 years after his first win in the World Championships.
Just over a month after that sublime Distaff moment, Stevens announced plans to undergo a left hip replacement surgery in December. The same team of doctors that rebuilt his knee were once again charged with putting racing's bionic man back together. They did just that and by March 2017, the indefatigable Stevens was back riding at Oaklawn Park.
Stevens was back in the groove again this year, posting 62 wins — his most since 2013 — through Nov. 18. His last graded stakes score came when he rode Sharp Samurai to victory in the City of Hope Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 6.
Included in his 5,187 career victories are nine Triple Crown race wins, including three Kentucky Derby triumphs (Winning Colors in 1988, Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Silver Charm in 1997). Stevens earned more than $258.2 million.
Stevens' career was dotted with a series of exceptional runners including Serena's Song and Point Given. He earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1998, one year after he was voted into Racing's Hall of Fame.