Kent Desormeaux out of alcohol rehab, ready for Belmont

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NEW YORK — Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux returned from a short stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center and was aboard Preakness winner Exaggerator for a morning workout before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

The 46-year-old rider on Tuesday acknowledged those who are helping him through his struggles with alcohol.

With younger brother Keith, Exaggerator’s trainer, by his side, Desormeaux said: “I think that my brother, mostly my wife, and my family have supported me through all the years, and it was my turn to say thank you.”

Exaggerator is expected to be the favorite in a field of 13 for the final leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park.

After his Preakness win on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Kent Desormeaux returned to California. His last day of riding was May 30 before he checked into Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah, a rehab facility popular with celebrities. He says he has a “sober companion” with him at all times, and that his program will continue when he completes the schedule he’s started in Utah.

Exaggerator, who finished second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.92 Tuesday morning, according to Daily Racing Form clockers. At one point, the 3-year-old colt moved away from the rail on the turn, but then completed his work through the stretch.

“Good energy,” Kent Desormeaux said. “His recovery was 20 feet. He took a deep breath. He sucked some air in and just walked home like he’s just been stable walking. ”

Keith added: “As a trainer, the time is of secondary importance. You want to see the horse recover after the work. When I got back to the barn his sweat had already dried up. He had a nice and calm look in his eye and he was under control. So it looks like we’re in good shape.”

The brothers are part of a close-knit family from Louisiana’s Cajun country, but they have much different personalities. Keith, 43, has been training for more than 25 years and this is his first time on the Triple Crown stage. Kent has been a big-time rider for decades, with more than 5,700 wins, including the Kentucky Derby three times, the Preakness three times and the Belmont in 2009 with Summer Bird.

Over the years, though, Kent Desormeaux’s drinking problems have cost him good mounts, including his Preakness ride aboard Tiger Walk and his Belmont ride aboard Dullahan in 2012. He’s failed Breathalyzer tests at tracks in 2010 and 2012.

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

Keith has expressed his concern for his brother’s problems in the past, and seemed pleased to have Kent back aboard Exaggerator.

As the two turned and walked away from the brief news conference held next to the track, Keith smiled and said, “he’s different. I’m telling you. He’s breathing. He’s answering. It’s clean living boys.”

The post-position draw is Wednesday. Expected to take on Exaggerator are Brody’s Cause, Cherry Wine, Creator, Destin, Forever d’Oro, Gettysburg, Governor Malibu, Lani, Seeking the Soul, Stradivari, Suddenbreakingnews and Trojan Nation.

Man o’ War exhibit honors racing legend born a century ago

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — A new exhibit on Man o’ War is opening across the street from the New York racetrack where the thoroughbred racing legend suffered his only defeat.

“Man o’ War at 100” is being unveiled Wednesday at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, across Union Avenue from Saratoga Race Course.

The exhibit’s opening coincides with the 100th anniversary of the horse’s birth on March 29, 1917, at Nursery Stud near Lexington, Kentucky. The horse was sold the next year at the Saratoga yearling sales.

Considered one of racing’s greatest thoroughbreds, Man o’ War won 20 of 21 lifetime starts. The horse’s only defeat was to a horse named Upset in the 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes at Saratoga.

Man o’ War died in Kentucky in 1947 at age 30.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.