Masterson, a personal trainer based in Bellevue, Wash., helped the 50-year-old jockey lose 25 pounds and nearly 8 percent body fat during two months of workouts last year.
It allowed Stevens to come out of retirement after seven years and resume a riding career that produced eight Triple Crown victories and nearly 5,000 other victories.Running in his 17th Preakness, Stevens rode Oxbow to his third win.
Stevens also won the race in 1997 (aboard Silver Charm) and 2001 (Point Given).
“Gary was clearly focused and driven,” Masterson said in a phone interview before the race. “Every time we established a base line in our tests, he would go farther and he would go harder. He was pushing himself every single time.”
Masterson said Stevens was able to push through the pain that forced him to retire in 2005, mainly because of knees that had undergone more than a dozen operations.If anything, Masterson had to hold Stevens back like a jockey might a horse that gets skittish in the starting gate.
"He wanted to get in, get going and start crushing stuff right away,” Masterson said. “He wanted to get better, he wanted to get himself stronger. He was ready to hit the ground running, and he did.”Masterson said that at the time he was training Stevens, he had just finished reading a biography of Alexander the Great.“[Alexander] exercised every day because he felt that his spirit should be the master of his body and not vice versa,” Masterson said. “Whatever he could do physically, he should be able to do it because he willed it and not limited by his body. That was Gary. ‘I want to do this, and let's find a way to do it.'”
Masterson didn't get to see Stevens win the Preakness. He was showing his mother and daughter around Seattle on Saturday. He received a text from someone he works with at the health club where he trained Stevens.
"It's awesome," Masterson said Saturday night.
Asked if he was going to ask for a raise, Masterson laughed.
"No," he said. "I'm just going to give him a high-five."
Stevens found Masterson through Dr. Mark Dedomenico, a Seattle-based heart surgeon and horse owner who combined his profession and his passion to establish the Pegasus Equine Training and Rehabilitation Center that has been described as a spa for horses.
Dedomenico has also owned a Seattle-area health club where he runs a program called 20/20 Lifestyles where Masterson works and where his human clients work on fitness training and nutrition. According to Angie Stevens, the jockey’s wife, the program is geared to those with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
“It is literally to get those people with those issues to start eating healthy and off their medication,” Angie Stevens said. “It’s like no salt, no sugar, no alcohol, no bread. It’s very intense the first couple of weeks, then they slowly introduced those things back into your diet. It was insane what he went through, it was intense, but it did what he wanted.”