Same Old Same Old
By John “Ace” DaSilva
Kent Desormeaux is one of the best jockeys you will ever see on top of a horse. The 48-year-old still holds the record for most wins in a year with 598 set in 1989. He was inducted to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2004 and presently has 5,980 career victories in North America, which puts him 18th on the all time win list for jockeys. Despite those credentials, Desormeaux’s effort is being questioned after race 4 on Saturday at Del Mar.
Aboard 13-1 Take a Leap, many have said Kent, once he thought he couldn’t catch K P Pergoliscious for the victory, wrapped up too early with Take a Leap. Video replay shows during the stretch drive, Kent hand riding the Jeff Mullins trainee from the start of the chute to the wire, where he lost second when he was caught by 4-1 Room to Finish.
This is not the first time Desormeaux has been accused of not riding out to the wire. But this is the first time in a long time that a mount Kent is charged to have wrapped up on early was caught just before the wire. Many were upset about that race and after a hearing with the stewards on Sunday, the matter was passed along to investigators of the California Horse Racing Board for further investigation.
According to Trakus, at the mile mark of the mile and a sixteenth turf race, Take a Leap was going 37.7 MPH. At the wire when Kent had wrapped up on the horse, Trakus measured Take a Leap going 35.1 MPH. Kent did look under his shoulder at that time to see where the competition was but kept on hand riding the horse. For comparative purposes, the winner K P Pergoliscious was going 37.9 MPH at the mile marker and 36 MPH when crossing the wire.
Desormeaux defended himself on Twitter, saying “I clearly flagged the horse all the way to the wire. I was hissing and kissing for more run. Photo finish clearly shows me shoving hard. And head on shows me not standing up until way passed wire.” While all this may be true, the lack of movement from his hands have made many question the ride.
Jockeys risk their lives each time they hit the track. Kent Desormeaux has had his fair share of injuries, including a couple injuries that some thought he might not make it back from. So it is not surprising to see a jockey wrap up on a horse to protect himself and his mount if they thought their position was set. But when the perceived lack of effort cost owners a placing and money while many bettors lost money on their bets, the noise we are hearing against Desormeaux right now is not surprising.
Desormeaux needs to understand that his reputation isn’t exactly the greatest. Some still hold a grudge against him for the Big Brown ride in the 2008 Belmont Stakes. His nickname of Sleepy stuck with him after a missed work with Sweetnorthernsaint a couple weeks before the 2006 Kentucky Derby. For years he has been accused of not riding out mounts to the wire.
Racing is a dog eat dog world. At the present Del Mar meet, Kent is tied with Gary Stevens and Evin Roman for 11th in the standings with 9 wins. But a ruling that says Desormeaux is guilty of a lack of trying could be the beginning of a downward spiral of his career. Trainers will not trust him and at his age, some could say he is starting to show signs of being washed up. Once trainers have those negative thoughts in their mind, it is very difficult for any jockey to overcome that. Timing did not help Kent’s cause as well. Recently Tony Maragh was accused of not persevering with a mount at Gulfstream Park and he cited exhaustion as his “excuse.”
Is Kent Desormeaux guilty? That’s not up to me. But the pressure he will face from this point on could create one of the biggest challenges of his career. Whether he is guilty or not, he must take responsibility for his actions, because owners expect 100% from their jockey each time their horse runs. If the perception of lack of caring or trying is allowed to continue, he might as well prepare for his retirement ceremony. Kent deserves better, racing deserves better. But only one person can force the direction of where this is headed. Your move Kent, keep trying or just keep giving up before the wire. Which will it be?