2004 Hall of Fame Inductee: Kent Desormeaux

Jockey Kent Desormeaux was already in elite company among riders prior to his selection for induction into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame Tuesday.

His 598 wins in 1989 still stands as a record for a single season and he is one of only three jockeys to win an Eclipse Award both as an apprentice and journeyman. Desormeaux, who won an Eclipse as an apprentice in 1987 and as a journeyman in 1989 and 1992, shares that distinction with Chris McCarron and Steve Cauthen.

Through May 23, 2004, Desormeaux has won 4,419 races (19.9%) and earned $169,217,481. He also had 241 graded stakes wins through the end of 2003.

Desormeaux, 34, called his two Kentucky Derby (gr. I) wins aboard Real Quiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 the biggest wins of his career.

"Probably the most talented horse I rode (was) Fusaichi Pegasus," Desormeaux said. "What an amazing, amazing, animal that horse was."

Desormeaux's favorite horse to ride was Best Pal.

"Best Pal may not have been the fastest horse I ever rode...but what that horse was, was push button," Desormeaux said. "He kind of reminds me of Smarty Jones. He had no mental deficiencies."

Desormeaux was selected to the Hall of Fame over finalists Eddie Maple, Randy Romero, and Jose Santos. Jockeys are eligible after 15 years of riding.

A native of Maurice, La., Desormeaux began riding in 1986 at Evangeline Downs before moving his tack to Maryland later that year. Desormeaux was the nation's leading for the next three years beginning in 1987.

The time spent riding at bush tracks in Louisiana was cited by Desormeaux as a key in his development as a rider.

"I think as an apprentice I was probably cheating. It's kind of like the guy that comes in from Panama and has already been riding for three of four years," Desormeaux said. "As all my Cajun brethren have, we have a head start. It's what launched my career. I showed up in Maryland with added skills."

While in the midst of his dominating run in Maryland, Desormeaux decided to shift his tack to the Southern California circuit, which at the time had unquestionably the toughest jockey colony in the country. Though Desormeaux knew it would be tough to break-in in California, he felt it was necessary to put his career on the elite level.

"There's nothing more fun than winning four races a day, and quite frankly, going home with one (win) and wondering what's wrong," Desormeaux said of his days in Maryland. "But it was one of those things where if I wanted to be in the Kentucky Derby or Breeders' Cup I had to make a change."

Desormeaux has been a leading rider at each of the four major Southern California meets.

In addition to his classic wins with Real Quiet and Fusaichi Pegasus, Desormeaux has gone on to win two Breeders' Cup events -- the 1995 Sprint (gr. I) with Desert Stormer and the 1993 Turf (gr. I) with Kotashaan.