Exaggerator in good heart, and appetite, ahead of Preakness

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TwinSpires Staff

May 16th, 2016

Edited Preakness press release

It’s well documented that Kent Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame riding career exploded once he moved from Louisiana to Maryland, where he became a record-setting apprentice jockey. But his older brother Keith, the 49-year-old trainer of Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up and Preakness S. (G1) contender Exaggerator, also got his big push in Maryland about 30 years ago.

Keith Desormeaux said by phone from California that he was in college at Louisiana Tech when his kid brother encouraged him to come to Maryland.

“That’s where it all started,” said Desormeaux, an animal science major at Louisiana Tech. “I started galloping at Laurel and then was an assistant trainer with the great Charles Hadry. I spent most of my time at Pimlico in the barn across the street from the stakes barn. That’s where I cut my teeth. I haven’t been back there, I think, since 1991, so it’s been quite a while.

“Kent was asked to come out with (current Kentucky trainer) David Vance. He was at Louisiana Downs and he was going from there to Maryland. Maryland has always been a great place for apprentices to develop. That’s why Kent went. He was there six months, a year before I went. I was in college and I wanted to work on the track during the summer. That would have been my first summer job, and Kent was already on a roll there in Maryland. Why would I go anywhere else? I had a free room to bunk in. He knew people and I got a job there.”

Exaggerator, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner, walked the shedrow the morning after vanning Sunday from Churchill Downs to Pimlico with assistant trainer Julie Clark at the wheel. After training hours ended at 10 a.m. (EDT), Exaggerator was led over to the indoor paddock to school.


“He likes to get out early and then have a nap,” Clark said. “We’ll probably (paddock school) another couple of times. He’s a little bit of a handful over and coming home, so the more we practice the better we all are.”

Clark said Exaggerator came out of the Derby in fine fashion, adding with a laugh, “I wouldn’t mind if he were a little more tired. Just for one day.

“…Even the Sunday after (the Derby), he looked pretty good, and by Monday he was back to his normal self…. The first couple of days I thought he looked a little bit drawn. I really feel like I was just nit-picking. There wasn’t anything to complain about, but if I had to complain about one thing that would be it. But even after shipping here, he’s regained (any lost weight). And he eats everything in sight, I swear. He’s just a vacuum.”

Clark said the trip, with Exaggerator in a 32-foot trailer accompanied by a gelding, took about 10 hours. Four other Desormeaux-trained horses at Churchill vanned to Maryland via a big Sallee van.

“He loves to ship, he’s very good in the trailer,” she said. “So I just put a gelding in there with him. We had some 2-year-old colts that are real boisterous, and I thought it would be a nice quiet trip without all the boys ‘talking.’ I give the hard ones to (Sallee).”

Exaggerator will gallop Tuesday morning. He’s likely to stand in the starting gate on Friday.

Photo and video courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club.