Kent Desormeaux’s First Priority

Big Brown had a disastrous day at the Belmont Stakes. In a try for the Triple Crown, Big Brown finished last. Big Brown’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, made a terrific decision and eased his horse from the race. Kent Desormeaux said, “I had no horse“.

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The race has stirred controversy and questions. There are questions about trainer Rick Dutrow’s pre-race statements, questions about Big Brown’s preparation, questions about the ownership group and so forth. The one thing that is beyond question is that Kent Desormeaux did the right thing. His main responsibility as a jockey is take care of his horse. And he did.

At the very beginning of the race, Big Brown did not look comfortable. Like a human runner, a horse in full motion should have head movement that tracks on a level plane. The horse should not be having its head fight upward. It is an indication of an uncomfortable run and Big Brown showed this early in the race.

When Kent Desormeaux asked for more run from his horse and there was not the usual response, the race was finished for Big Brown. That is not the usual reaction from this horse and Kent Desormeaux knew it. He could not risk the possibility of injury to his horse – and it must have flashed in his mind whether Big Brown was injured already. Fortunately, that was not the case. That is known only in hindsight. At that moment, Kent Desormeaux did what he could for his horse and eased Big Brown off. Kudos to this jockey. It was a superb decision.

Catherine Forsythe