07/26/2008 11:00PM

Desormeaux gets win No. 5,000

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.- Kent Desormeaux won the 5,000th race of his career when guiding Bella Atrice to a popular victory in Sunday's seventh event at Saratoga. He became the 23rd jockey to reach 5,000.

Desormeaux, the regular rider for Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, had gone on an 0-for-30 streak before winning his 4,999th race here on opening day. He then went winless for the next three afternoons before finally joining the exclusive 5,000-win club on Sunday.

“They made me earn it,” Desormeaux said after achieving the milestone. “Maybe it was a good thing it took me a while to get this win. At first I thought it was just a number, but then I got to dwell upon it all week and you know even I'm in awe of it. Five-thousand wins. Wow! It's a long way from 10,000 and guys like Russell Baze, but I won these 5,000 in California and now New York, in the A league, and I'm really proud of that.”

Desormeaux, 38, singled out two victories as the biggest of his career.

“My first win and my first Kentucky Derby winner,” said Desormeaux. “Those two I hold close to my heart.”

Desormeaux, a native of Maurice, La., won his first race aboard Miss Tavern at Evangeline Downs on July 13, 1986. His first Kentucky Derby victory came aboard Real Quiet in 1998.

A three-time Eclipse Award winner, Desormeaux was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. A regular on the California circuit for many seasons, Desormeaux moved his tack to New York in 2006 where he's enjoyed a major revival in his career over the past two seasons. He finished second, one victory behind Cornelio Velasquez, during the 2007 Saratoga meet.