Desormeaux on Exaggerator, training in California, & 'what’s great about owning a racehorse'
Edited Preakness press release
Keith Desormeaux entertained the media with his homespun way on a dreary Wednesday morning, spending about five seconds perched on the interview podium before vaulting over a rail to stand on the ground with the journalists and videographers. That proved his warm-up act.
Asked the daily administrative question concerning his Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Exaggerator’s morning training session, Desormeaux said playfully, “He jogged two miles. You want more than that? Nothing happened. How about this? He bucked two times at the three-eighths pole and then settled in and jogged twice.
“He was feeling good. The kids were running around on the grandstand, and that usually gets him stirred up, any horse stirred up. He handled it well.”
Told that assistant trainer Julie Clark had quipped Sunday that she wished that ever-energetic Exaggerator would get a little tired just once, Desormeaux said:
“It’s not a dangerous energy. Some horses, their energy can be used in dangerous ways. His is just a happy energy. He’s really not hard to handle. He’s a lot of fun to be around, to tell you the truth. Easy for me to say, though; they [his crew] spend a lot more time around him.”
Asked if he finds horses more fun to be around and have more personality when they win Grade 1 races, Desormeaux said:
“I haven’t had enough Grade 1 winners to expound on that question. But I can tell you, in my experience with Exaggerator, it seems like that (based on his) reaction to the clicking of the cameras. Maybe some horses will shy from that. But it seems he enjoys it, or he takes it as a cue to pose. He starts hearing the clicking, he’ll plant his feet and put his ears up and look over the horizon. It’s a pretty cool scene. That’s about the only equine characteristic I’ve seen with the Grade 1 wins.
“That’s what makes it so great, what’s great about owning a racehorse. When they take you to that highest level, it’s not like a football player who comes from the B leagues and makes the pros and after one year he’s asking for a multi-million dollar contract. We’re in the pros with Exaggerator; he’s won at the top level, and he’s not asking for any more feed, any more money, any more attention, shinier shoes. He’s still the same Exaggerator, and we’re just trying to keep him in peak health.”
Exaggerator’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) was Desormeaux’s second in a Grade 1 race, following Texas Red’s win the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). His nine graded-stakes victories started with Ive Struck a Nerve winning the Fair Grounds’ Risen Star (G2) at 135-1 odds in 2013. The rest have come after Desormeaux started training in Southern California, a move made possible after joining forces with Matt Bryan’s Big Chief Racing, the majority owner in Exaggerator.
California-based horses have won the Kentucky Derby for three straight years, with Nyquist following Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Preakness (G1) winner California Chrome in 2014.
“It is interesting, and I noticed that years ago,” the Louisiana-born Desormeaux said in response to a question. “Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I chose to head out West when I had the opportunity. The stats are just staring you in the face: If you want to be successful in the Triple Crown, it seems like being out in California is one of the first steps to accomplish that.
“I don’t know why I’m saying so, because if people listen, there will be more competition. And it’s tough enough out there as it is. Please, everybody, stay where you are.
“But if I had to go further and explain it, the only thing that makes real sense to me is the fact that these horses don’t have to deal with the weather changes as much out there. That’s why there’s 40 million people in California. The weather is outstanding, and I think the horses react favorably to it. They don’t have to constantly change their metabolism to deal with the seasons.”
Exaggerator is scheduled for a walk day Thursday morning. Keith Desormeaux will be available to the media at 9 a.m. (EDT).
Photo and videos courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club.