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The Belmont

Desormeaux wants crowning moment

A win by Big Brown would mean a lot to the jockey -- and his deaf son, who is going blind.

June 06, 2008|Larry Stewart | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- If, as expected, jockey Kent Desormeaux ends up in the winner's circle after Saturday's Belmont Stakes, taken there by super horse Big Brown, he's not sure what he will say or whom he will thank first.

"It will mean so much, to so many people," he said. "If it happens, I'll just let my emotions take over."

Not that Desormeaux needs any extra incentive as he tries to guide Big Brown to a victory that would make him horse racing's first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. But he would certainly like to give the younger of his two sons something to remember.

Jacob Desormeaux was born with Usher syndrome, a disorder that causes deafness and gradual loss of sight. The 9-year-old is now deaf, able to hear only when wearing special hearing aids. And he's going blind.

Desormeaux and his wife, Sonia, say their son's blindness is progressing quicker than anticipated, and that it may be only a few more years that he can see at all.

His mom says he has an amazingly photographic mind.

And his dad says he would like "to give him a moment he will be able to see in his mind forever."

Seeing his father make history would be that moment.

Desormeaux describes Jacob as "the happiest kid on Earth." It must be rubbing off.

"I've never been happier," Desormeaux said. "The key thing is, I'm happy from within."

Sonia said, "Considering all that has gone on, these are the best days of our lives."

It was 2 1/2 years ago that Desormeaux, miserable in Southern California, bolted and moved his family to Garden City, N.Y., and into a two-story home located about a 10-minute drive from Belmont Park. The move, and the realization that it was time he began improving his attitude, paid off. He rejuvenated a career that had gone bad.

In Southern California, he was letting his emotions get the best of him.

"I was dramatically sour," he said. "Whenever I came around, people would spin like a top and go the other way. I couldn't get any mounts. I had to go."

Starting in 2000, he spent as many as three months a year riding in Japan. One of the trainers he rode for there was Kazuo Fujisawa, who trains Casino Drive, the horse that figures to have the best shot at upsetting Big Brown in the Belmont.

Of Fujisawa, Desormeaux says, "He's kind of like a Bill Mott or a Richard Mandella. Everyone there respects him immensely."

Fujisawa tabbed Desormeaux to ride Casino Drive in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 10, and the horse won by 5 3/4 lengths. Edgar Prado will be aboard the horse in the Belmont.

The Desormeaux family, minus their father, will be moving back to Southern California in August. The week of the Kentucky Derby, Sonia found a home for them in La Canada.

Jacob and his older brother, Joshua, 15, prefer the schools there. And Southern California offers the best medical facilities for Jacob.

"The schools and the treatment for Jacob are the reasons they are going back," Desormeaux said.

"I hate to be away from them, but as it is, I'm not around much anyway."

Besides riding at Belmont and nearby Aqueduct, Desormeaux also rides in Kentucky, Florida and upstate New York.

Lately, though, all he has been doing is focusing on the Belmont -- and promoting it.

"It's been crazy hectic," he said.

But there has been some fun, such as throwing out the first pitch at last Sunday's New York Mets game against the Dodgers at Shea Stadium.

Jacob was there too. It was another nice moment for his memory bank. But not comparable to the one his father plans to give him Saturday.



The Belmont

When: Saturday at 3:15 p.m. PDT

Where: Belmont Park in New York.

TV: Ch. 7, coverage begins 2 p.m.

Field: Ten 3-year-olds.

Distance: 1 1/2 miles.

Favorite: Big Brown, 2-5.

Total purse: $1 million.

Winner's share: $600,000.

Forecast: A slight chance of a thunderstorm, temperatures in the upper 80s.

2007 winner: Rags To Riches.

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