Higgins Starts In-House Riding Rivalry
Photo: Zoe Metz Photography
Rosie Higgins and Kent Desormeaux

On his way into the Santa Anita Park winner's circle aboard Passau after the last race Jan. 15, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux locked eyes with trainer Bob Hess Jr. and couldn't help but chuckle.

Hess and Desormeaux have teamed up on their share of winners over the years, but Passau isn't trained by Hess.

"You really (messed) it up, didn't you?" Hess quipped at the jockey.

"I'm in the doghouse now," Desormeaux shot back.

Desormeaux cruised to a 7 3/4-length victory aboard Passau—who is trained by his brother, Keithin the six-furlong maiden claiming race, but it was the jockey that came in second to last who accomplished a significant goal.

Desormeaux's wife, Rosie Higgins, was aboard the Hess-trained colt Sunny Truce in the first race of her career. Off as the longest shot on the board at 68-1, he came in a far-back ninth in the field of 10, but it was an important milestone. Higgins has been working horses for Hess since 2010 and relished the opportunity.

"She's a great person, a great horsewoman, and comes from a racing background," Hess said just after supplying some shoulder rubs in the paddock to try to ease the 31-year-old, first-time rider's nerves. "She's a great girl and a great friend. We're a longshot here, but the horse runs great for her in the morning, so it was a win-win."

The California-bred Sundarban colt did run great for her, albeit momentarily. The 3-year-old immediately broke on the lead, but got shuffled back a bit in the backstretch and tired in the turn.

"I have not beaten her yet (out of the gate)," Desormeaux said. "For eight years, she always gets in front of me in the morning."

Higgins admitted she got a touch anxious in the paddock area but was able to settle down.

"That was a good horse to have my first ride on," Higgins said. "He does everything perfect except run at the end. I beat (Kent) out of the gate, so I gave him the second half."

Her husband wasn't as easy-going leading up to the race.

"I was cold sweating," Desormeaux said. "I was a nervous wreck all day. She didn't turn a hair all day."

But will this in-house riding rivalry continue?

"Oh yeah," Higgins said, firing a glare to her husband. "Hopefully next week."
 

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