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updated: 5/2/2013 7:45 PM

Desormeaux eager for new challenge at Arlington

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  • Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, shown here riding Sacristy at Gulfstream Park last January, will be racing at Arlington International this season.

      Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, shown here riding Sacristy at Gulfstream Park last January, will be racing at Arlington International this season.
    AP Photo/Gulfstream Park, Coglianese Photos

 
 

There's no other way to put it: Kent Desormeaux is pumped.

The Hall of Fame jockey knows what some people have been saying lately, that he hasn't been as focused as he once was.

He's heard it.

And this summer at Arlington International, the 43-year-old hopes to prove all the naysayers wrong.

"I can't wait to show the world that I'm not done," Desormeaux said early one morning on the Arlington apron. "I'm very hungry. And I'm focused.

"I still wake up every day with dreams and goals to attain."

Kind of amazing considering the résumé he has already put together: more than 5,000 career victories, including 3 Kentucky Derby wins, an Eclipse Award as Outstanding Apprentice and two more as a journeyman jock -- one of just three riders to ever win in both categories.

And now life's journey has led him to Arlington, where he won the 2004 Million aboard Kickin Kris and has 3 victories in both the Beverly D and Secretariat Stakes.

"It's one of my favorite grass courses," Desormeaux said. "I know the horsemen are indifferent about the Polytrack course because particular horses either care for it or they don't.

"But as a jockey -- and from a rider's standpoint -- it's a tremendous thing to ride on because there's no kickback, horses enjoy themselves, and it's more of a controlled situation. And I enjoy that.

"I think it takes more jockeying than if you just have to hee-haw away from the starting gate and go as fast as you can. Poly involves a little strategy."

He'll be using all that strategy -- and will need all his veteran savvy -- when he goes up against a solid jockey colony that includes 2012 riding champ Francisco Torres, runner-up James Graham, Rosemary Homeister Jr., Seth Martinez, Jeffrey Sanchez, Corey Nakatani, Chris Emigh and a slew of others.

"Colony or whatever, it's hard to beat the guy with the fastest horse," Desormeaux said. "As a rider, who do I like not competing against? The guy with the faster horse than me."

So far, Desormeaux, who rode recently at Gulfstream and Keeneland, looks as if he'll have plenty of opportunities to show off his skills at Arlington.

"I think it's been successful already because the first day I ride here I ride five mounts," said Desormeaux, whose jock agent is Penny Fitch-Hayes. "Through the meet at Keeneland and over the last six months I've been riding two a day, three a day. That's just not enough for me. I want to be busy. I like the action."

And he contends Arlington fans will like the action they see from the Hall of Famer.

"A Kentucky Derby ride in the third race on a Wednesday afternoon," he said when asked what they should expect. "They're going to get the best that I've got 24-7. All the time. Every race. I've got blinkers on."

And if the summer goes as well as he thinks, might Desormeaux have to choose between returning to Arlington in 2014 or moving on to bigger and better things?

"I'm looking forward to having that problem," he said with a smile. "I just want to get business rolling and have fun being a jockey again."

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