11/05/2014 3:42PM

Veterans Desormeaux, Stevens retain youthful enthusiasm for riding

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kent Desormeaux after winning the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Texas Red.

Hall of Fame jockeys Kent Desormeaux and Gary Stevens may be a combined 95 years old, but they are looking toward the Del Mar autumn meeting that begins Friday with the enthusiasm of 20-somethings.

Both approach the meeting with something to prove.

Desormeaux, 44, is two weeks into a comeback from a frightening kick sustained in a post parade on Sept. 28 that resulted in rib injuries and a bruised lung. He returned to riding Oct. 26 and has recorded two wins, notably the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Texas Red at Santa Anita last Saturday. Texas Red is trained by Desormeaux’s brother, Keith.

“I’m so excited for Keith,” Desormeaux said last weekend.

At Del Mar’s summer meeting, Desormeaux finished second in the jockeys’ standings to Rafael Bejarano, the leading contender to win the title at the autumn meeting. But at a short 15-day meeting such as Del Mar in November, Desormeaux knows that one hot week can propel a rider to the top of the standings.

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He is hopeful of duplicating his summertime success.

“I’d show up now to have the exact same kind of meet,” he said. “I’d take that. It was so much fun.”

On Friday, Desormeaux is booked to ride six of the nine races, while Stevens has two mounts, both on also-eligible lists.

Stevens, 51, returned from a knee-replacement operation in July to ride the final weekend of the Santa Anita meeting. In four mounts, his best finish was a fifth on Sivoliere in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Stevens is not chasing a riding title at this stage of his career but intends to focus on quality, an approach he took when he returned from a seven-year absence in January 2013 and rode for 18 months.

Stevens said his knee performed well in the first days of his comeback.

“I’m going on,” he said. “It will be business as usual. I feel like I’d hope I’d feel. I feel great. There is no swelling, no nothing. It’s pretty amazing.”