06/21/2001 11:00PM

Desormeaux's trip home only a visit


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Kent Desormeaux returns from Japan on Sunday to ride four horses at Hollywood Park, including Astra in the $200,000 Beverly Hills Handicap.

But his presence in his homebase of Southern California does not mean he is finished with Japan - this week or in the long term.

Desormeaux is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. On Sunday evening, he is returning to Japan to ride a major stakes there on Tuesday.

By Friday, Desormeaux will be back at Hollywood Park, but says a lengthy return to Japan in coming months and years is a possibility. He still has a month of eligibility remaining on his three-month riding license for 2001 and says he would like to do the whole thing over again.

"I hope to do it every year, maybe at different times," he said. "I've had such a great time. I've had unimaginable success. It's been a very good stay."

A glance at his success in Japan helps explain his interest. Since April, he has won 21 races at Tokyo Race Course, the country's top track. The highlight was a victory in the $1.4 million Japanese Oaks at Tokyo on May 20.

"You can't imagine what it's like when 150,000 people chant your name like they were doing after the Japanese Oaks," he said. "It's like the Kentucky Derby."

While the trip may have been successful and financially rewarding, it also has had its downside.

Unlike Europe, where racing news is readily available, results from Japan are not widely circulated in the United States, meaning Desormeaux has been out of sight for the last 10 weeks.

He has four chances to impress race-goers on Sunday's nine-race card.

Aside from Astra, he rides Wood Kat in the third race, Divine Hammer in the fifth, and Devil's Horn in the seventh.

Desormeaux originally intended to stay in Japan until mid-July, but is returning early to ride races and work horses in anticipation of Del Mar, which starts on July 18.

"I hope to reinitiate myself there," he said. "People will see the enthusiasm I have."

Desormeaux left for Japan at the end of the Santa Anita meeting in April. At the time, he described the move as a "family-oriented decision." He said he wanted to spend more time with his 2-year-old son, Jacob, who was born deaf, but underwent a radical procedure earlier this year that allows him to decipher sounds.

The move to Japan allowed Desormeaux to ride weekends and spend most of his weekdays with his family, which includes his wife, Sonia, and older son, Josh.

Desormeaux says Jacob's vocal skills have made remarkable progress. They are a closer family, he said.

"He's always speaking," Desormeaux said of Jacob. "I'm quite fortunate the way things have happened. Before when I left the house, the kids didn't care. They didn't notice I'd left. Now, the baby cries. Truthfully, my kids have fallen in love with me. It's been worth its weight in gold."