Bonded by their prowess for getting the most out of race horses, siblings Keith and Kent Desormeaux have a relationship that can best be described as professional.
Sure, they love each other. Yet, after the duo teamed to win the Preakness with Exaggerator on Saturday, the most visible sign of affection between the two was a fist pump from Keith, the trainer, after Kent rode the colt to a stunning victory.
“It’s interesting that our styles are the same,” Keith said Sunday. “That’s why we don’t have to speak much. We know exactly what we want from each other.”
Standing outside the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico Race Course on another rainy day in Baltimore, 49-year-old Keith Desormeaux explained how he and his younger brother ultimately formed a winning combination in a Triple Crown race.
“We were here together a couple years. He went out to California and I remained here and then spent most of my time in the Texas-Louisiana-Kentucky circuit and everywhere in between,” Keith said. “But we came together these last few years in California. I train for an off-the-pace style of running, and you rarely see Kent on the lead.”
Besides, having your brother as a jockey means there’s never a need to mince words.
“You don’t have to worry about hurting your employee … uh, it shouldn’t be said that way,” Keith said. “I can’t cuss out Gary Stevens. But being he’s my brother, it’s a little easier when the adrenaline is flowing.”
After finishing second behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby aboard Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux ran a brilliant race in the Preakness. He stayed on the rail, lurking from a safe distance before rushing past Nyquist in the stretch and pulling away to win on a sloppy track.
It was the third Preakness victory for Kent, 46, who’s also won the Derby three times. For Keith, it was the biggest win of his career as a trainer.
That it came courtesy of his brother was, seemingly, nothing more than a footnote.
“We had an embrace up there,” Keith said. “But brotherly love? I don’t know, is it different than any other kind of love? When you know you have that type of love, you don’t need to show it outwardly. We know what we have.”
The victory ended Nyquist’s bid for a Triple Crown and provided Keith Desormeaux with a euphoric feeling that was years in the making.
“I personally never had a doubt that I’d get here,” he said. “It wasn’t a matter of if but when. That’s what I tell myself. If I woke up every day wondering if I was going to win a Derby or Preakness or Belmont, I wouldn’t enjoy my work. I wake up every day thankful that I get to do this for a living.”
Kent Desormeaux, a Hall of Fame jockey, also had plenty to be thankful for. His battles with alcohol have been well documented, and he had not won a Triple Crown event since the 2009 Belmont.
“The owners and trainers, absolutely, put me on a pedestal, and I hope they’re all very proud that they’re not wrong about what they gave me,” Kent said after the race. “Because this is where I belong, riding classics.”
After calling their mother in Louisiana, the brothers had a late dinner at a steakhouse as part of a muted celebration.
“With all the emotion leading up to that race, and beginning a meal at 10 o’clock, I don’t care how excited you are, you’re starting to wind down,” Keith said. “We had a nice meal, pleasant chatter and a couple glasses of wine and it was over.”
Keith Desormeaux was asked if he would put Kent on Exaggerator in the Belmont.
With a wry grin, he replied: “No, I’m thinking about giving somebody else a chance. He’s won so many of these things, he’s getting a little greedy. Get Calvin (Borel) out of retirement.”
It was all a joke, of course. The brothers will team again at the Belmont, where on June 11 they will try to make it two in a row over Nyquist after losing four times to the previously unbeaten horse.
Other tentative entrants in the Belmont: Lani, who finished ninth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness; Cherry Wine, the Preakness runner-up; Suddenbreakingnews; Brody’s Cause; and Destin.
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