10/15/2010 3:01PM

Desormeaux intends to ride at Fair Grounds

Barbara D. Livingston
Kent Desormeaux said he will ride at Fair Grounds for at least the first month of the meet.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Aside from the very beginning of his Hall of Fame career and the occasional stakes engagement, Kent Desormeaux has never ridden all that often in his home state of Louisiana.

That will change later this year. Desormeaux said he will ride for at least the first month or so at Fair Grounds when the New Orleans track begins its four-month meet on Nov. 25 and could continue into 2011, depending on how things go.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Desormeaux. “I usually take December off, but I already got my month off this year.”

Desormeaux, 40, returned to riding Oct. 2 at Belmont Park after sustaining a hairline fracture of a vertebra in his neck in a Sept. 3 spill at Saratoga. A native of Maurice, La., Desormeaux has made a full recovery and has been riding regularly at Keeneland, where he was the leading rider at the 2008 spring meet.

Desormeaux began his career as an unknown apprentice in 1986 by riding several months in Louisiana. He then made a huge impact in Maryland for 3 1/2 years, then moved to Southern California in early 1990 and primarily rode there until early 2006, when he left Santa Anita to ride in New York. He since has made a circuit of Gulfstream Park in the winter and Saratoga in the summer while alternating between Kentucky and New York in the spring and fall.

Desormeaux has won the Kentucky Derby three times and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.

Benefit to aid famed ailing photographer

Tony Leonard, one of the greatest equine photographers of the last 50 years, will be at Keeneland on Sunday to sell and autograph copies of his photos of Secretariat. Leonard, 87, and his wife, Adelle Bergantino, 81, have been experiencing great hardship in recent times as wards of the state of Kentucky.

Indeed, the Leonard story has become a heartbreaking one for his many friends in the horse business. According to a lengthy story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, state officials determined in August 2009 that Leonard and his wife were incapable of caring for themselves and ruled that the state was to be their official guardian. They now live in a nursing home against their wishes.

Leonard and his wife, who have no children, were in failing health; their finances and property were in ruins; and no relatives were willing to step forward to sufficiently help them, according to the article. It is believed, however, that Leonard’s archives of photographic negatives could be worth a great amount of money, although the issue of whether they will be liquidated has not been determined.

All proceeds from sales of the signed Secretariat photos here Sunday will go toward defraying the couple’s expenses and debts, according to Keeneland officials.

Unbridled Humor may get stakes shot

The 3-year-old filly Unbridled Humor might well have run herself right into stakes company by easily winning a first-level turf allowance as an 8-5 favorite here Wednesday. She earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure when staying unbeaten in two career starts.

“She’s been very impressive in the mornings, and I thought she took a very big step with the way she won that race,” said Graham Motion, who trains Unbridled Humor for her breeder-owner, Live Oak Plantation.

Maiden filly defeats males for Martin

Trainer Randy Martin notched his first win at Keeneland when Par Lady took the opening race here Thursday at nearly 12-1. Martin, who trains primarily for the partnership of Raleigh Ralls and Dennis Foster, took the somewhat unusual step of running a filly against males in the $40,000 maiden-claiming route.

“I already had a filly for the same kind of race at the end of the meet, and there wasn’t any other spot, so we just said what the heck,” said Martin, who has 70 wins in his solo training career and also has had lengthy stints as an assistant.

◗ You see it a lot more often at tracks with lower-end racing, but it’s somewhat rare to see an 11-year-old run at Keeneland. Yet that’s what will happen in the ninth race Sunday, when El Bomba makes his 85th career start for Sherri Greenhill and her husband, trainer Jeff Greenhill. El Bomba, a Maryland-bred gelding, is one of 12 older horses in the 1 3/16-mile starter-allowance.

◗ Trainer David Carroll announced Friday that Acoma, winner of the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes here last weekend, will indeed make the final start of her career in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. Owners Helen Groves and Helen Alexander were all but settled on retiring Acoma until she captured the Spinster at 23-1.

◗ Four stakes, three of them graded, are on the schedule here next week: the Grade 3, $100,000 Sycamore on Thursday; the Grade 3, $150,000 Valley View on Friday; the Grade 2, $250,000 Raven Run on Saturday; and the $125,000 Dowager on Sunday.