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.

Tiger Roll wins Grand National in photo finish

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AINTREE, England — Tiger Roll won the Grand National Steeplechase in a photo finish over Pleasant Company as Irish horses dominated the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday.

A 4 1/2-mile (6,400-meter) race was won by a matter of inches in the closest finish to the Grand National since 2012, when Neptune Collonges won by a nose.

Tiger Roll, a 10-1 shot, was leading by as much as 10 lengths in the long run to the line, but only just held off the fast-finishing Pleasant Company (25-1) to win a first prize of 500,000 pounds ($710,000).

“I did have a big fear,” said jockey Davy Russell, who won the race for the first time at his 14th attempt. “It would have been heartbreaking.”

The first four horses home in the National were from Ireland, including Bless The Wings (40-1) and Anibale Fly (10-1).

It was the second National victory for both trainer Gordon Elliott, who also won with Silver Birch in 2007, and owner Michael O’Leary, who had 2016 winner Rule The World. O’Leary is chief executive of budget airline Ryanair.

“We bought the horse as a pint-sized hurdler,” O’Leary said, “but he’s got a heart of a lion.”

Russell grew up dreaming of winning the National. As a child, he erected Aintree-style fences in his garden and pretended to ride a horse over them.

“I’ve won this race thousands of times (in my head),” Russell said. “But not like this.”

David Mullins, the jockey of Pleasant Company, said he thought he was well-beaten after jumping the next-to-last fence.

“Davy was going so much better than me,” Mullins said.

That seemed to be the case as the horses made it past the elbow in the run to the line, but Pleasant Company closed in as Tiger Roll faded. It was too close to call as they crossed the line and the 171st edition of the race required a photo finish to separate them.

Total Recall went off as the 7-1 favorite but fell.

 

Baffert: McKinzie won’t run in Santa Anita Derby

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) McKinzie will miss the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 because of an unspecified problem.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the colt won’t run in the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby due to an issue in one of his hind legs. X-rays and scans haven’t confirmed what it is.

Baffert said Saturday in Dubai that McKinzie is “definitely out,” according to multiple media reports. He says he’s being “very cautious.”

The colt edged Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10, but was disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch.

McKinzie was 10th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 40 points for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman. The colt won the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on Dec. 9 and the Sham Stakes on Jan. 6.

Baffert was in the Middle East to saddle West Coast and Mubtaahij to second- and third-place finishes in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.