04/18/2013 12:23PM

For Desormeaux, conflicting views on his struggles

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kent Desormeaux has been at the center of several alcohol-related incidents in recent years, but says the perception of him and his off-the-track issues is overblown.

Keith Desormeaux is happy, albeit guardedly so. It is the first Tuesday in March, and he is driving west on Interstate 10 toward his hometown of Maurice, La., where a home-cooked meal and an overnight stay at his parents’ house await.

Desormeaux enjoys these occasional visits, which typically come only when he is in the general vicinity, some three hours away while tending to his 20-horse stable at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Desormeaux also is in good spirits because, 10 days beforehand, he sent out Ive Struck a Nerve to a 135-1 upset in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. The victory made the colt a virtual cinch to run in the 139th Kentucky Derby in May, if only he could remain free of illness or injury, which as it turns out was not the case – Ive Struck a Nerve soon was off the Derby trail because of an ankle injury.

Desormeaux is quite articulate, and he was knowledgeable on the afternoon drive in discussing an array of topics, the rich Cajun heritage of his family the most important of all.

The Desormeaux name is famous in this part of the country known as Acadiana, primarily because of Keith’s younger brother Kent, whose feats as a world-class jockey have earned him three wins in the Kentucky Derby, a place in the Racing Hall of Fame, and wealth that no one in the family could have imagined.

Keith, 46, and Kent, 43, have always been close in a brotherly way. These days, however, there is an underlying rift between them, although both are loath to say why. They are stubborn and self-confident and have an ongoing fundamental disagreement over why Kent, for all his accomplishments, has not been faring well lately with his riding career. There is an emotional conflict between Kent and his brother, along with others in their family, as to whether Kent is harming himself and his career with the way he conducts himself away from the racetrack.

Keith’s enduring hope is to bring a horse to the Kentucky Derby with Kent as the jockey. But in the Risen Star, the winning rider was Jimmy Graham, and no change was being considered by Keith for the next two planned starts, the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby.

As he continues the drive to his parents’ house that Tuesday afternoon, the situation is starting to foul Keith’s mood.

“I’m surprised nobody else has asked,” he said. “Why is my brother not riding my horse?”

***

It is mid-afternoon on a late-March weekday in Hollywood Beach, Fla., where Kent Desormeaux, arms and calves tanned, strolls into an open-air beachside spot called Nick’s. He has spent the last few months living just a couple of miles from Gulfstream Park.

“Haven’t ridden all that much, so I’ve been able to go to the beach,” he said.

Indeed, Desormeaux rode sparingly at the Gulfstream meet that ended April 5. He had three winners from 73 mounts, a stark contrast to the many times he has won three or more races on a single racing program.

He is asked the same question his brother asked: Why was he not riding Ive Struck a Nerve?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess because he got the worst ride and worst trip in history the race before.”

Kent rode Ive Struck a Nerve in the colt’s prior start, the Jan. 19 Lecomte at Fair Grounds, finishing a distant fourth at 33-1 after what Kent described as a nightmare trip. “He threw his head back and about broke my nose twice” during the first few hundred yards, he said, further describing other misadventures later in the race.

But those things happen in racing. Keith recalls the first time Kent ever rode a horse for him, when Keith was 18 and Kent was 15. It was at a bush track, Acadiana Downs, and Kent dropped his whip aboard a Thoroughbred they had nicknamed Yazoo.

Over time, that incident was forgiven, and in all the years since, the brothers often teamed together. So was a so-called bad ride the real reason Kent didn’t get a return call on Ive Struck a Nerve?

***

On a chilly recent morning at Gulfstream, Kent Desormeaux climbed aboard a jogger for trainer Bob Hess Jr., a longtime friend from their years together in California, before getting on two workers for Jimmy Divito, a Chicago trainer for whom Desormeaux hopes to ride when he moves his tack to Arlington Park next month.

It was a race day, but Desormeaux had no mounts on a 10-race card that afternoon.

“I’ve got one tomorrow,” he said.

His business has suffered mightily in the last year or so, after the last batch of top trainers – Bill Mott, Dale Romans, Ken McPeek, even Hess – stopped giving him regular mounts.

“We live in a world of perception,” Desormeaux said two days earlier, carefully choosing his words during the first few minutes of a three-hour interview at Nick’s. “My arriving to work and failing a Breathalyzer has given the world the opinion that I drink before I ride. I have never, ever drank any morning before I rode a race. Never. I really think it’s all a matter of perception management.”

At least three alcohol-related incidents have dogged Desormeaux in recent years: a radio interview he granted when inebriated in May 2010; a failed Breathalyzer at Woodbine in July 2010; and a failed Breathalyzer at Belmont Park on the morning before he was scheduled to ride in the Preakness last May. (There also was an incident that did not involve alcohol, at Saratoga in August 2011, when he was arrested for a run-in with a traffic guard. He later pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $2,000.)

Desormeaux can give plausible reasons for each incident. As for the radio interview, it came late in the afternoon when he was on a Bermuda vacation. He further explained that the metabolism of a 115-pound man who essentially starves himself on a daily basis makes him susceptible to measurable alcohol levels, even some 12 hours after he has stopped drinking the previous night.

Steve Byk, who conducted the interview on his national SiriusXM program, said the “degree of his supposed drunkenness has been exaggerated over the years. He was in a fun, tipsy mood. He was funny and plenty coherent.”

The Desormeaux family, however, has grown weary of it all. They feel – and they say they have repeatedly discussed this with him – that Kent is doing irreparable harm to himself and his career. They express a profound concern for his health and welfare and point to his current slump as being symptomatic of a deeper problem.

Kent is appreciative of their concern but has come to his own conclusions.

“I’ve had the same routine since I was 19 years old,” he said. “I get up and work my ass off, and then I go home and enjoy my life. That’s the end of the story.”

PHOTO: Desormeaux in late March at Gulfstream, where he went 3 for 73. He is 5 for 78 overall in 2013, a year after he posted career lows in starts (263) and wins (38) and his lowest earnings ($2,829,842) since 1986. Photo by Barbara D. Livingston

***

Like most jockeys, Kent Desormeaux does not eat like a normal human being. Except for maybe an occasional Snickers bar, he will avoid food all morning and afternoon. In the evening, it’s “maybe a steak and a glass or two of wine,” he said.

It is well documented that many jockeys punish themselves to make an acceptable weight. Desormeaux admits he has flipped, or vomited, some of his meals. His natural weight probably would be about 135 pounds, maybe more, if he did not resort to such drastic measures. The long-term implications of such self-inflicted torture can be dire, with the kidney, liver, and other critical organs affected. It is the complicit trade-off that many riders accept for their shot at a lucrative living. Asked how often he thinks of food, he plainly stated: “All jockeys think about food all the time.”

Keith Desormeaux strongly believes that the years of this abuse, combined with the way Kent drinks alcohol, has spiraled Kent into the danger zone. Yes, Kent has lived his life the same way all these years, but he is no longer a kid. Even the body of a world-class athlete has limitations in what it can tolerate.

“To me, it’s been cumulative,” said Keith. “It’s physiological. After a while, your muscles and organs just can’t take all the abuse. Kent might say he’s okay because he doesn’t drink before he rides, but honestly, I believe it’s affecting his entire being.”


To no avail, the family has attempted an intervention with Kent and tried to line up one of those exclusive rehabilitation facilities for him. “Money hasn’t been the issue,” said Keith.

But Kent is adamant that as long as alcohol is not anywhere near the workplace, he is on safe ground – and besides, he said, many of his riding colleagues do the same thing.

“One drink doesn’t make you a drunk,” he said. “Every jock but maybe a couple, when they leave that room after a hard day of riding, the first thing they do is go grab a cold beer. There’s no colder beer than that first one after you’ve ridden six or seven.”

After the Woodbine incident, Desormeaux successfully completed an alcohol counseling program in New York. He also attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings but feels he got little out of them “except for maybe having 3,000 new best friends,” he said with sarcasm. “I had people calling from all over, asking, ‘Need help? Anything I can do for you, buddy?’ I’m like, no, thanks, I’m fine.”

He believes he has been unfairly blackballed by the trainers with whom he has shared great thrills and rich victories, but he partly understands why it has happened. “They’re accountable to their owners,” he said.

He points to people he knows and his riding brethren in saying that many of them, too, are drinkers, regardless of whether it’s classified as “social” or not. “We’re all the same,” he said. “We’re all human. I don’t know why everybody has their thumb pressed on me.”

Keith says he has listened many times to what his brother has to say on the topic, but he feels strongly that Kent is in a unique position, and that Kent has to be mindful of how drinking affects Kent – and nobody else.

“We’ve gone around and around about it,” he said.

Even though Dallas-area businessman Matt Bryant, the majority owner of Ive Struck a Nerve, is “a huge Kent Desormeaux fan,” according to Keith, this is the central reason Kent was not riding the colt.

“I just don’t feel right about it,” said Keith. “At least not the way things are right now.”

***

To understand and appreciate how Kent Desormeaux got to this point, it is essential to know where he has been, and with whom.

Contrary to legend, the Desormeaux boys did not grow up riding horses together every day in the spacious fields just outside the town center of Maurice (pop. 964, according to the 2010 U.S. census).

“We were too into sports, especially basketball,” said Keith, who was quite a leaper and defender. Kent, for his part, was a quick ballhandler who knew how to arch his shot so that a taller defender would feel the breeze of the ball on his fingertips, but rarely the satisfaction of a block.

When Kent began riding races in 1986 at age 16, Keith already was on his way to a degree in animal science at Louisiana Tech University. During his first summer break, Keith realized he wanted to become a trainer. Meanwhile, Kent dropped out of high school, much to his mother’s chagrin, although he eventually passed his General Educational Development (GED) test.

Like his brother, albeit to a lesser degree, Keith has traveled extensively throughout a training career that began in 1991, including regular stints in southern California, while meeting with far less fanfare and monetary reward. Through last weekend, he had won 437 races for stable earnings of $9.1 million, which translates to about 20 wins and $400,000 a year.

His victory in the $400,000 Risen Star with Ive Struck a Nerve was his richest, and more notably, put him on the Kentucky Derby trail. But Desormeaux’s fears were abruptly realized at Fair Grounds on the morning of March 9, when an ankle fracture was diagnosed after the colt cooled out from a routine workout. Ive Struck a Nerve is expected to race again, maybe even later this year, although obviously the Derby is gone.

“The good thing is we’ve still got a nice horse for down the road,” a downcast Keith philosophized afterward.

Keith, a single father who has a 21-year-old son, Bailey, a football player at Texas Christian University, has forayed into other areas of the horse business, including buying and selling young stock. In 2001, in partnership with his father, “we hit a real nice lick,” he said, when selling a yearling for a high six-figure sum at auction. His methods in conducting business are prudent and well considered.

“I’m just a trainer trying to cut out a living,” said Keith.

***

The first-floor office in Harris and Brenda Desormeaux’s resplendently appointed home in Maurice, La., has become a makeshift shrine to Kent’s career. The shelves are overflowing with the memorabilia a Hall of Fame jockey accumulates in winning 5,476 races and nearly $245 million in mount earnings, the latter number being fifth-highest in North American racing history.

There sit the Hall of Fame plaque and the three Derby julep cups from his wins on Real Quiet (1998), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and Big Brown (2008), along with his three Eclipse Award (1987, ’89, ’92) statuettes, the imposing George Woolf Award (1993), and so much more. It is an outlandish display of silver, gold, and lacquered wood, all of it rendered somewhat ironic by how Desormeaux has spun his wheels of late.

Harris Desormeaux, 70, has one of those smiles that utilizes every muscle in the face. Born and raised in Milton, La., he exudes a certain joie de vivre for which his people are known and speaks with the flair of his native land, his musings dotted with Cajun jargon.

Brenda Desormeaux, 69, has aged gracefully and beautifully, and like her husband of 48 years, her face hides little, especially the wide grin. Little doubt she has always been the consummate mother, nursemaid, gourmet cook, decorator, cheerleader, and confidante to her six children and 13 grandchildren. Her life has revolved around family and faith, and as she prepares a meal of salad, hot bread, and etouffée over rice, she professes aloud about how blessed and fortunate she and her family have been.

Brenda and Harris, both now retired, have lived in the same house since 1983 on land that has been in her family – her maiden name is Hebert – for more than 100 years.

After she had Keith and Kent, Brenda gave birth to three girls – Kristie, Kelli, and Kalen – and finally a third son, Kip. All six Desormeaux kids look to Brenda as the family linchpin.

“She’s the glue, a real pistol,” said Kent. “She’s never had any fear. She would tell me, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask anybody for something. All they can say is no.’ ”

Harris was always earnest in his efforts to raise his kids the right way, and of all his family members, it is his dad with whom Kent still maintains closest contact.

“We still talk probably two or three times a week on average, I’d say,” said Kent.

Harris Desormeaux was “the ultimate entrepreneur,” Keith said on the drive to see his folks. “He did whatever he could to provide for his family. He ran a harvest store. He was a silo salesman. He was into Amway, ran convenience stores, feed stores, trained a few Quarter Horses on the side. He even owned Acadiana Downs for a couple of years,” he continued, adding with a laugh, “but bringing little kids around a place like that, he had to sell it if he wanted to keep his wife.”

Acadiana Downs and the other local bush tracks were where the racing bug bit the Desormeaux boys. Those tracks are long gone – what was Acadiana Downs just south of Lafayette is now a housing development – but they made for some good times that they all appreciate as a nostalgic slice of a bygone era.

“We’re as Cajun as it gets,” said Keith.

PHOTO: Desormeaux last winter with Dale Romans, one of several top trainers who have stopped giving him regular mounts. A failed Breathalyzer last May contributed to Romans taking him off Dullahan in the Belmont. Photo by Barbara D. Livingston

***

Kent Desormeaux has been talking at Nick’s about his life and career for a couple of hours when his new wife, Rosie, walks in, exchanges pleasantries, and takes a seat alongside. The couple was married in a brief ceremony on the morning of Jan. 7 in the Gulfstream winner’s circle. Kent, Rosie, and a 62-year-old ordained Pentecostal minister named Danny Ramsey were the only people there, “if you don’t count the people who were just galloping by on horses or watching us from the grandstand,” said Ramsey.

“It was a lovely ceremony, maybe 15 or 20 minutes,” said Ramsey, a Bahamian native who works as an exercise rider. “I told them I’ve been married to my wife for 43 years. I’m a Christian man. I told them they must live by the Bible.”

Rosie Higgins Desormeaux has been around horses her entire life, having grown up on an eastern Ohio farm as the daughter of a now-retired trainer named Charlie Higgins, who won 38 races while competing mostly at Mountaineer Park from 1979 to 1998. At 28, Rosie is 15 years younger than Kent. They met one morning several years ago at Keeneland, where Kent’s career was thriving and Rosie was working as an exercise rider and assistant for Hess.

They were engaged Sept. 26, 2012, the day after Kent’s divorce from his then-wife, Sonia, became final. Rosie continues to work for Hess, and days apart from her husband are extremely rare.

“We do pretty much everything together,” said Kent. “I’m at Bob’s barn a lot in the morning. At nights, we’ll have some dinner and a glass of wine and get up the next morning and do it all again.”

Sonia, who still lives in the Los Angeles suburbs, declined to be interviewed for this story. Less than a year older than Kent, she grew up in Youngsville, the next town over from Maurice, and met Kent when they were in high school. Their marriage in 1989 produced two sons, Joshua, now 20, and Jacob, 14.

For various reasons, the couple grew apart over the years, although Kent said he was “absolutely floored” in July 2008, just hours before he was to accept his third ESPY Award as the top jockey in America. He and Sonia were in a hotel near the awards ceremony in the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

“I came home from riding in New York, thinking I was going to have a two-day honeymoon with my wife,” Kent recalled. “She told me it was over. We never lived together another day.”

Kent said time has eased much of that pain and that he and Sonia are on civil terms, mostly because of their sons and also because “we have always been close friends.”

Family members say they have met Rosie a few times. Brenda called her a “very sweet girl,” although they barely have had a chance to get to know her. Kent and Rosie are essentially cocooned, semi-isolated and semi-alienated from Keith and other family members. Kent’s marriage to Rosie came as something of a surprise to them.

“Did I tell my mom and dad before or after we got married?” Kent asks Rosie when trying to recall the timing of it all. They kick it around a while before he concludes, “I’m pretty sure I told them before.”

***

The relationship between Kent Desormeaux and his sons is complicated, emotional, and somewhat strained. They visit him periodically, such as when Jacob came to Keeneland a couple of years ago and when Joshua came to south Florida this winter for a four-day stay.

Desormeaux is asked how often he speaks to his sons. “We talk fairly often, but I have to call them,” he said. “They never call me. I don’t know why, you’d have to ask them.”

Jacob Desormeaux has been a source of joy and heartbreak in his parents’ lives ever since infancy. He suffers from Usher syndrome, a rare and incurable genetic disease that causes major problems, including deafness and early-onset blindness. The most severe cases can result in premature death.

Kent Desormeaux said he and Sonia were traumatized when learning first that Jacob was deaf, and then by the ultimate diagnosis of Usher syndrome. During the interview at Nick’s, the discussion about Jacob is the only time Kent sheds a tear.

“I really don’t like talking about it,” he said two mornings later. “It’s very painful, as you can see.”

Jacob’s parents spared no expense in having him examined by the foremost authorities on the disease; their efforts cannot be overstated. Jacob can hear with the help of cochlear implants, but total blindness is his ultimate fate, although his father said Jacob can still see fairly well.

“He’ll say, ‘Dad, I’m still seeing through the same doughnut hole,’” said Kent. “There’s been no major regression so far.”

The greatest thing about Jacob is that “he is the happiest kid in the world,” said Desormeaux. “He’s one grade behind for his age, but we’ve got him ‘main-framed’ now,” meaning he no longer requires special-needs schooling. “He knows he’s different but he carries on like nothing bothers him. He enjoys life as much as anybody I know.”

Several months ago, Sonia brought Jacob from California to Louisiana for a brief stay with his paternal grandparents.

“Jacob is the sweetest, happiest kid,” said Brenda Desormeaux. “We just love him.”

***

In a large, framed photo in the Desormeaux house in Maurice, Kent is being led into the Churchill infield winner’s circle aboard Real Quiet, his first Derby winner. The young jockey looks like euphoria personified.

The meaning of Kent’s riding career to his family is impossible to quantify.

“I think Real Quiet, that was probably the best,” Brenda said. “That was the first. We were all so proud, so happy.”

Keith said when he would watch the Kentucky Derby on TV, it “was just a fantasy – really, a fantasy. Then to see Kent out there, wearing those roses . . . There’s only one Derby.”

Being in the same business, Keith is asked whether he ever felt envious of Kent’s success. He frowns at the absurdity of the question.

“Never one degree,” he said. “It’s the way God willed it, that Kent would be as successful as he’s been. I always knew how we were as brothers. We were compatible dudes.”

Brenda affirms the boys’ closeness as they grew up.

“They were always together,” Brenda affirmed. “Everything Keith did, Kent wanted to do. Keith always encouraged Kent, pushed him to succeed. His competitiveness comes from Keith.”

“Keith is the reason I became as athletic as I did,” said Kent. “He pushed me really hard. He was bigger, stronger, faster. It was all I could do to keep up.”

Keith said the first time he went to see Kent ride in the Derby was in 1995. “I’ve been to the Derby maybe five or six times,” he said, the only Kent winner being Big Brown. “After I went to a few, it kind of stoked the fire in me, and I haven’t gone back very often. Actually, it stokes the fire a little too hot.”

Keith is enormously proud of his brother, and the agony he exudes when discussing what he believes to be a problem with Kent’s drinking is palpable. “I love him,” he said. “Sure I do.”

***

After 3 1/2 sensational years to begin his career in Maryland, including the 1989 season in which he won a record 598 races, Kent moved in early 1990 to the more lucrative southern California circuit. He was a star there, too, winning multiple riding titles at the three major tracks while also competing in major events throughout the United States and beyond. His stature took him to exotic places to ride: Sweden, Hong Kong, Brazil, Peru, the Virgin Islands, maybe another half-dozen other countries.

In 1998, the same year he was away from California frequently when riding Real Quiet in the Triple Crown, things started to change in a subtle way. Desormeaux said his day-to-day business was never the same following a rule change that allowed agents to work for two jockeys. “I can look back now and say that was the beginning of the end for me in California,” he said.

For five straight years (2001-05), Desormeaux rode for three-month stints in Japan. Although the money and international acclaim were great, his bread-and-butter business upon returning home kept getting thinner. In 2006, he announced he was moving to New York, not only further altering the dynamics of his family life, but also making him something of a nomad. Depending on the time of year, he also was riding in Kentucky and Florida.

He started off very well in New York, missing out by one win to Cornelio Velasquez (44-43) for the 2007 riding title at Saratoga. Even after the up-and-down 2008 with Big Brown and his separation from Sonia, he kept winning major races, perhaps none bigger than triumphs in the Belmont Stakes, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2009 with Summer Bird.

Although his numbers stayed relatively strong for years – during the five-year period from 2006-2010, he averaged about 160 wins and $12 million in mount earnings per year – his statistics soon began to take a noticeable downturn.

In 2011, Desormeaux had $4.3 million in mount earnings, his lowest total since his partial year as an apprentice in 1986. In 2012, it got worse: 37 wins and $2.8 in mount earnings, both career lows. And then there are the abysmal numbers in the first 3 1/2 months of 2013: five wins and $266,004 in mount earnings.

By numerous accounts, his recent rapport with horsemen has been upbeat and favorable. On that recent morning at Gulf, as a huge moon shone brightly, so, too, did the whites of his eyes. His energy level was high, his thought process lucid, his ambition undeterred.

“This is me, bro,” he said. “This is what I do.”

All that is missing is quality mounts from top stables. Since winning the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby on Sept. 30, his seven winners have come for the following trainers: Jeff Bonde, Thomas Clark, Findley Bishop, Eduardo Caramori, Kim Chapman (twice), and Hess.

“For a long time there, Kent really had his head on straight, and we got on quite a roll together,” said Ken McPeek, a highly accomplished trainer who used Desormeaux extensively after the jockey moved from California but has not employed him lately.

“For whatever reason, he has no momentum now. I’ve actually lost my confidence in him. It’s been a business decision. He just hasn’t been able to get his mojo back. I do expect that in time he’ll get back to the top.”

Unlike some jockeys who rode well beyond their glory years, Desormeaux is still relatively young and unencumbered by injury. His financial condition is stable and not a compelling reason for him to keep riding, according to him and Keith.

His most serious injury came in 1992, when he permanently lost all hearing in one ear when suffering a serious skull fracture in a spill in California. He also is nagged by a painful foot condition known as Morton’s neuroma, but otherwise, “I’ve been very, very lucky,” he said. “I broke my wrist twice and broke a collarbone and some ribs, but my legs are clean. Very lucky.”

He said he is extremely driven to climb the proverbial mountain again.

“I am not tired,” he said. “I feel good and strong.”

PHOTO: Desormeaux plans to ride at the Arlington Park meet, which begins May 3, a day before the Kentucky Derby. Photo by Barbara D. Livingston

***

Talk about Kent Desormeaux and his drinking has flourished in recent years, fueling widespread speculation that he has “lost it,” that he cared more about himself and his drinking than his career and reputation.

One of several stories involves Kent being “the surprise” last September for his dad’s 70th birthday party at the Desormeaux home in Maurice. Kent admits he had had too much to drink on his flights to Lafayette, and he continued to party as the family waited for a couple more hours to surprise Harris. By the time Harris showed up, his son was in poor shape.

Then there was the morning last year when he drove from Lexington to Churchill Downs to work a horse for Dale Romans. Desormeaux admits to smelling of alcohol and perhaps being “a little hung over” from the previous night, but strongly denies being drunk. Nonetheless, Romans, a longtime supporter who used Desormeaux on such top horses as Paddy O’Prado and Dullahan, said it was the proverbial last straw.

“I haven’t ridden one for Dale since,” said Desormeaux.

All of these anecdotes hurt the Desormeaux family. As Keith closed in on Maurice on a cool Tuesday afternoon in the Louisiana bayou, he cautioned that bringing up the subject would make his mother cry “in less than a minute.”

He was right. Once the small talk had subsided, and a more serious discussion about Kent was starting, Brenda began to cry. “Everybody knows what the problem is,” she said.

There are very legitimate questions whether Kent should seek professional help and whether he is in denial.

Whatever the answers, Kent has his career comeback all plotted out.

After riding at Keeneland this month, he will head off to the five-month meet at Arlington, where he has never ridden regularly (wins in the Arlington Million, Beverly D., and Secretariat don’t count in that regard).

“I need to get people talking about me again, no matter where it is I’m riding,” he said. “And the only way you can do that is to win. I need to get that momentum back, get that ball rolling again. I need to keep kicking that ball down the hill. I’m going to Chicago to meet people who don’t know anything about me except what they’ve heard or read. When they get a chance to see the real me, I’m confident they’ll want me riding their horses. Assuming I do well at Arlington, hopefully I can then go back wherever I want.”

Desormeaux has lofty goals he still wants to reach, including tying Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack for the Derby record of five victories and surpassing Eddie Delahoussaye (6,384 wins) as the winningest Louisiana native.

Back home, his family essentially is on the same page as Kent, albeit from a different slant. While Kent talks about rebuilding his career, they agree that, yes, that would be nice – although they are intent on him rebuilding something even more important.

“It’s all up to Kent,” Keith said.

It is, as they might say in Acadiana, a double entendre.

Cecil More than 1 year ago
It's all well to see a person go through some tuff times but when they try to rebound theself we sort distance ourself from them. I do think he do deserve another shot at redeeming himself. He been riding on some occasion in the U.S Virgin Islands.
Ira Landess More than 1 year ago
Marty McGee has written a wonderful story. There's life in it that extends way beyond the racetrack. I would have liked my mom to say to me what Kent's mom said to him: "Don't be afraid to ask anyone for something. All they can say is no."
Robert Castro More than 1 year ago
I happened to meet Kent and his first wife Sonia when they would frequent a tanning salon I owned in New York when he was riding at Belmont. He was a pleasant man and even on one occasion gave me an autographed litho of him winning the derby on Real Quiet. Once at Belmont I was along the paddock rail and as he walked out of the jocks room looked up and saw me, this was about 2 years after I closed my business, and he remembered my name and came over and shook my hand and asked how I was and talked a few minutes before going to ride. This was after winning the derby and him being a hall of fame jockey. This is the Kent I know and people should not judge him if you never met him. Good Luck Kent.
Marvin Imes More than 1 year ago
My wife Marjory adopted Kent for her very own special Grandson the first time she saw him. I was a little harder to convince but after a few years she convinced me he was the best rider and grandson she could have. We were very sad to hear about his problem with booze but we understand and hope he pulls out of it. We still admire him greatly and wish him best luck. Marjory and Marvin
James More than 1 year ago
It would be nice to see him get the riding title at Arlington. That would get things rolling for him again. He's made a few mistakes in the past few years and the trainers have made him pay. The trainers have never made any mistakes in their lives apparently so why would they give someone a second chance? Hypocrites (including his brother). A guy with his talent isn't kept down for long. He'll be back.
georget More than 1 year ago
If Kent's problem is alcohol, I can relate. Alcohol ruined me. One night when my parents called the cops on me, I asked someone for help. My life turned around. Unfortunately my younger brother never lucked out and he is as stupid as he was at 13, when he started on the hard stuff. For some people alcohol is absolute poison. You become alcohol. I know of so many people who had extraordinary talent yet became schmucks because they couldn't see what alcohol does.
Str8UpSportTalk More than 1 year ago
Its like another reader posted... there are many jockeys looking to get a chance that are good... once you finish up the track it isn't easy getting back to the finish line, I wish kent luck but at 43, I think his better days have passed him by
Richard More than 1 year ago
BY THE WAY GREAT JOB ON THIS LOOK AT JOCKY WHO CAN RIDE.. MARTY MCGEE, KUDO'S TO YOU.
Richard More than 1 year ago
GROW UP MY FRIEND, LIFE IS JUST TOO DAM SHORT.YOU CAN MAKE A BIG COME BACK AND NO ONE WILL STAND IN YOUR WAY. JUST DO IT RIGHT...
Kevin More than 1 year ago
Get off the booze Kent and prove the haters wrong
Jack More than 1 year ago
The Life of a Jockey is a TOUGH one at Best,It really helps if you are Comfortable with who you are,the FACT that you are a small Man is tough enough. I don't FEEL sorry for Kent,he created his own destiny.I FEEL SORRY FOR ALL THE BETTORS that lost MONEY counting on a good ride from this Man, his "ANTICS" in the saddle have cost People a lot of hard earned Money. His lack of CONCERN about riding for second or third money cost the Player's MILLIONS. They want Jockey"s to STARVE to death for the sake of 'Making weight"And then Management puts WEIGHT in the Horse's saddle. This should have been OUTLAWED years ago,I suggest 122 LBS for Young Horses,125 for Older...Period.But here LIES the problem, The Jocks want to KEEP the weight as LOW as possible,in an effort to protect their jobs, by keeping many Jocks out.................................
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
Raising the weights has been proven not to help the jockeys. The reason being is that it just encourages bigger riders to try and make weight. For example, the article says Kent's normal weight should be about 135, which is about right. You raise the weights and exercise riders that weigh 140-145 are gonna try to ride. Not to mention it does nothing to help our horses.