Keith Desormeaux Celebrates Confidence Game’s Kentucky Derby Entry

“We’re all celebrating what we love,” Desormeaux said.


When trainer Keith Desormeaux arrived at Churchill Downs in 2016 to prepare Exaggerator , his first starter in the Kentucky Derby (G1), he admits he was on edge around his barn, unaccustomed to a stable area drawing so much activity from media and observers.

Desormeaux grew frustrated when he felt they infringed upon his colt’s space, though he and his horse weathered the circus. Exaggerator performed well on Derby Day before a crowd of 167,227, running second to Nyquist  .

Two weeks later, Exaggerator captured the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course under the trainer’s brother, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux. The colt would then complete the Triple Crown series for 3-year-olds with an 11th-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

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Keith Desormeaux<br>
Horses training at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on April 29, 2023.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Trainer Keith Desormeaux at Churchill Downs

Desormeaux Patriarch, Founder Of Acadiana Downs Bush Track, Dies At Age 80

Harris Desormeaux

Harris Desormeaux died at age 80 on Saturday, April 22, 2023 at Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center in central Louisiana. The father of Hall of Fame jockey Kent and multiple Grade 1-winning trainer Keith, Harris Desormeaux was also the founder of the well-known Acadiana Downs bush track.

“My husband was the one who had a dear love of horses, and our first argument after we married was over a horse,” Harris’ wife, Brenda Desormeaux, told the Chicago Tribune in 2008. “He was in college at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and working two jobs as a lab technician and a security guard. I was a secretary getting my PHT — putting hubby through [school].

“One day he came home and told me he had bought a Quarter Horse. I said: ‘You did what? Where are we going to put it and where are we going to find the money to feed it?’ Somehow we found the money to rent a stall and feed it. I never cared much for horse racing, but it’s part of the Cajun culture. Kent’s interest was piqued when his dad had the racetrack.”

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Desormeaux Full of Confidence About His Derby Angle


In the words of President George W. Bush, “Fool me once … shame on you. If … fool me you can’t get fooled again.”

We got the gist. Apparently, though, no one’s been heeding the advice of the former chief executive, at least when it comes to the young horses of trainer Keith Desormeaux stepping up in the springtime for any number of Triple Crown preps. For instance:

In January of 2022, Desormeaux came out firing with the Midnight Lute colt Call Me Midnight to win the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds, knocking off 3-year-olds trained by Steve Asmussen, Brad Cox, and Mark Casse. He paid $59 for a $2 bet.

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Desormeaux Brothers Team Up with Oviatt Class

Son of Bernardini starts Nov. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar.


Racing fans don’t need the overnight to learn the jockey on the Keith Desormeaux-trained Oviatt Class  in the $2 million TVG Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G1) Nov. 5 at Del Mar. It’s Keith’s brother, Kent.

“As I told you and I tell everybody else, I’ve got no choice while my mother’s still living,” quipped Keith.

One liners aside, Keith wouldn’t want it differently. Ask him to comment on Kent, and he is quick to praise his younger sibling, who resumed riding over the winter after addressing repeat alcohol abuse. Last summer in the Del Mar area, he was involved in a physical altercation after drinking and was also accused of using a racial epithet—actions that led the track to bar him from riding for the rest of its summer meet.


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Desormeaux: ‘We Don’t Buy Pedigree, We Make Pedigree’

Keith Desormeaux

When it comes to shopping for young Thoroughbred prospects, trainer Keith Desormeaux and his team have a saying – “don’t buy pedigree, make pedigree”. Like so many of his recent stars, Night Ops’ bloodlines might not jump off the page, but the connections believe he has what it takes to be competitive in Saturday’s Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

Owned by Desormeaux, Big Chief Racing, Rocker O Ranch and Madaket Stables, the son of Warrior’s Reward was a bargain acquisition from the Fasig-Tipton October Sale in 2017 and was bought for only $5,000. Over the past few years, Desormeaux has developed a reputation for annexing reasonably priced stock and developing them into competitive runners that can win at a high level. Horses like Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red (a $17,000 purchase) and two-time graded stakes winner My Boy Jack (a $20,000 purchase) come to mind.

“I don’t want to be influenced by a horse’s page,” Desormeaux said. “It’s the horse first, and if it looks like pedigree that we can afford, then I’m all in. I’ve applied myself over the years in trying to figure out the ingredients and the necessary qualifications for a horse to reach a high level while at the same time, not have to spend so much money. I’m not the first one to do all this. Families on the bottom side that might be stagnant but we focus on the athlete, not on the page. We don’t buy pedigree, we make pedigree. I don’t mean to sound overconfident or cocky, but it’s just what we try to do.”

As far as Night Ops is concerned, he is still in search of his first career victory, but running maidens in big races like this is not foreign territory for Desormeaux. In 2017, he sent then maiden Sonneteer to the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park where he finished second at odds of 112-1.

“Sonneteer got us to the Derby and now he’s at a half-million in earnings so it wasn’t like we did something crazy,” Desormeaux said. “We’re all engrossed with Derby fever, it’s what my owners and I play this game for. This is a time of the year to find out what you have. He’s shown some talent. Sometimes you got push them a little bit and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re going to see what he’s got.”

In five career starts, Night Ops has been up against some nice horses including fellow Lecomte competitors Plus Que Parfait and Admire. He was a recent second to the latter over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs in November.

“Obviously you can see that he has talent on form, but if you handicap his opponents he’s been up against some nice ones,” Desormeaux said. “We ran a very strong closing second to Admire so that makes us legit. On the physical aspect, he should get stronger and better as the distances increase. He seems confident in his abilities and very sound so we’re taking a chance with him.”

Desormeaux gave a brief update on graded stakes winner My Boy Jack, who ran third in last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby Presented by and last raced in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational in July.

“He had some small bone chips removed from his ankle,” Desormeaux said. “He had plenty of time to recoup. We’re pretty excited about him this year.”

Night Ops will be guided by jockey Edgar Morales, who piloted the colt in his most recent effort. He is the second foal out of the Kitalpha broodmare Bear All. Night Ops was bred in Kentucky by Aschinger Bloodstock Holdings and was consigned by War Horse Place when being purchased.

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