Anyone thinking Keith and Kent Desormeaux seemed strangely unemotional after the brothers from Maurice became the first sibling trainer/jockey combo to win the Preakness on Saturday with Exaggerator should have been around later.
At least that’s the way Matt Bryan, Exaggerator’s principal owner, experienced it after the victorious party celebrated at a Baltimore steakhouse.
“They love each other like crazy, and I can tell you I saw it first-hand,” Bryan said Sunday. “They were so proud of each other and so excited. It’s like Kent said: ‘We made history today.’ ”
In upsetting unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in the slop at Pimlico, the Desormeauxs denied the thoroughbred world back-to-back Triple Crown champions.
But, as Kent, the riding half of the brothers, put it, they made history in another way.
It was the third Preakness victory for Kent, 46, matching the Hall of Famer’s Kentucky Derby total. (Desormeaux also won the 2009 Belmont aboard Summer Bird.) It elevated his career winnings to $265.4 million, fifth all time.
For Keith, 49, it was a breakthrough victory in a career that has seen him average only 20 winners dating to his debut in 1988, never making the top 100 in winnings until 2014.
Although well-liked and respected in racing circles, especially in his native Louisiana, Keith had seldom gotten the opportunity to train high-quality horses until he began a relationship with Bryan, a Dallas oil businessman, a few years ago.
In fact, Keith had never had a Triple Crown entry until this year’s Derby in which Exaggerator finished second, the fourth time in as many tries he had come in behind Nyquist.
“I’m just an old country boy, working in the trenches these last 30 years, and now we’re competing at the highest level,” Keith said Sunday. “My emotions are more towards gratitude and satisfaction at getting to this level. It’s the fact that we’re competing at this level.”
Kent, who was making his 43rd Triple Crown start (and 14th in the Preakness), was gratified to have his first Triple Crown victory in seven years after his career hit a rough patch over reported drinking problems he has put behind him.
“I personally never had any doubt that I’d get back here,” he said. “To me, my own perseverance was going to get there. It wasn’t a matter of if but when. If I woke up every day wondering if I’d ever win a Derby, Preakness or Belmont, I wouldn’t enjoy my work. I wake up thankful every day that I get to do something like this for a living.”
The brothers also explained that being low-key about their relationship, in public at least, is their style.
“We don’t have to speak much,” Keith said. “We know exactly what we want from each other.”
Added Kent: “Brotherly love? I don’t know; is it different than any other kind of love? You know when you have that kind of love, you don’t have to show it outwardly. We know what we have.”
On Sunday, Keith was joking about the relationship, kidding that he might consider switching jockeys for the Belmont.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about giving somebody else a chance,” he said. “Kent has won so many of these things, he’s getting greedy. Maybe I’ll get Calvin Borel out of retirement.”
For certain, the June 11 Belmont will feature a sixth meeting with Nyquist. Nyquist trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed Sunday that his horse will ship to Belmont on Monday instead of returning to California for a rest.
Keith said Exaggerator will remain at Pimlico until Wednesday or Thursday, although the brothers will be going back to California, where they are competing at Del Mar.
Along with Nyquist, Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine, ridden by Lafayette native Corey Lanerie, will be in the Belmont, as will be Brody’s Cause, also trained by Dale Romans, who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby.
Lani, ninth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness, also could be taking a shot along with Suddenbreakingnews and Destin. Tom and Gayle Benson-owned Mo Tom, eighth in the Derby, is another Belmont possibility.
After the Belmont, Exaggerator likely will point toward the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita — where Exaggerator in April won the Santa Anita Derby, which secured his Derby berth.
Exaggerator’s breeding rights already have been dealt to WinStar Farm, meaning it’s doubtful he will race as a 4-year-old.
“We’re just taking it race by race and letting Keith and the horse dictate our decisions,” Bryan said. “Right now, we’re still on the highest of highs, and I’m not sure it’s completely sunken in yet. For sure, this has changed all of our lives.”