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Preakness-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux in alcohol rehab

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Preakness Stakes-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux has gone to alcohol rehabilitation but will return in time to ride Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes next weekend.

“It was time to take a sober look at my life and take this step,” Desormeaux said in a brief statement issued Saturday through his agent J.R. Pegram.

The 46-year-old Hall of Fame rider won the Preakness aboard Exaggerator on May 21 after they finished second in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The colt is trained by Desormeaux’s older brother Keith.

Desormeaux last rode on May 30 at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields in the All American Stakes, where he finished 12th aboard Blue Tone. His last day of riding at Santa Anita was May 29, when he won the third race on a horse trained by his brother.

He is scheduled to return to riding Thursday at Belmont Park in New York, where Exaggerator is expected to run in the Belmont Stakes next Saturday.

Desormeaux went to rehab at Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah, a facility specializing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation that is popular with celebrities. He has struggled with alcohol issues in the past that have cost him mounts on good horses. His family, including Keith, has publicly expressed concern about the harm they believe he is doing to himself and his career.

Last year, Desormeaux was fined $2,500 by track stewards for being under the influence of alcohol during a race program at Del Mar. He has been subjected to breath tests by the California Horse Racing Board any day he has ridden in Southern California since then and hasn’t failed any.

Desormeaux failed breath tests at tracks in 2010 and 2012.

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

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NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

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Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.