Exaggerator Wins Santa Anita Derby for Desormeaux Brothers

Exaggerator on his way to winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Exaggerator on his way to winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Exaggerator with trainer Keith Desormeaux after his Santa Anita Derby win.

Exaggerator with trainer Keith Desormeaux after his Santa Anita Derby win.

Shortly after Kent Desormeaux won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby aboard Exaggerator on Saturday, he said he was still processing that he is headed toward the Kentucky Derby with a horse trained by his brother, Keith.

“I don’t think it’s soaked in yet,” the jockey said after a soggy day, in which he piloted the 3-year-old son of Curlin to a 6 ¼-length victory – the biggest winning margin at Santa Anita Park for the day.

. “I’m pretty much in shock. I’m just going to continue to pray that, unlike Texas Red, (that) we make it there,” Kent Desormeaux said.

The two teamed up with Texas Red to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in 2014, but a foot abscess kept the colt out of last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Kent Desormeaux has won the Kentucky Derby three times for other trainers – on Real Quiet for Bob Baffert in 1998, aboard Fusaichi Pegasus for Neil Drysdale in 2000 and most recently on Big Brown for Richard Dutrow Jr. in 2008.

His brother’s been there on the sidelines rooting for him, but said he’s ready to participate this time around.

Shortly after the Santa Anita Derby win, Keith Desormeaux asked, “Is it a Hollywood show – me and Kent going to the Derby? It’s all new for me. I’m the one living the dream.”

After a third-place finish to Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 San Felipe last month, Keith Desormeaux acknowledged that he had wondered whether Exaggerator could get beyond a mile for the 1 1/8-mile race.

“So, yes, I had doubts, but those were solved today,” he said of the victory by the colt, who paid $8.80 to win as the bettors’ third choice.

Exaggerator – owned by Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners and Rocker O Ranch — turned the table on his rivals this time around, with Mor Spirit coming in second and Danzing Candy finishing fourth.

“That was a crazy fast pace today and there was Exaggerator sitting behind like wondering, `Why are you all going so fast? The wire’s over here,’” Keith Desormeaux said. “It was partly the result of a very fast pace, but he’s also a very good horse.”

He said the race reminded him of a “Texas Red re-run.”

As for how easy Exaggerator went, his Hall of Fame jockey quipped, “Well, I tell you he was the fourth horse I rode in the mud today and the others felt like they had ice skates on and he felt like he had track shoes on. He really enjoyed the going and that was part of his incredible effort is that he enjoyed the mud.”

When asked if he thought Exaggerator could beat the likely heavy favorite, Nyquist, in the Run for the Roses, Kent Desormeaux said, “I don’t know. We’ll find out Derby Day.”

Referring to Exaggerator’s race against Nyquist in the San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 15, Kent Desormeaux said, “I thought I was going to go by him like he was tied to a pole and he wouldn’t let me by. That is a very good horse.”

Horse Bits:

 Kent Desormeaux came away with three stakes wins Saturday at Santa Anita, also marking up wins on Decked Out for his brother in the Grade 3 Providencia and What a View for trainer Kenneth Black in the Grade 3 Thunder Road.

 “What a ride!” Black said after Desormeaux came from sixth to finish first aboard What a View. “Going into the first turn I was questioning his tactics, I’ll tell you that.” When asked if he would consider having Desormeaux ride the gelded son of Vronsky again, he quipped that he was “thinking about it.”