It was just like old times at Laurel yesterday. Kent Desormeaux was riding again. And he was winning on everything in sight.
Desormeaux had set the all-time record for victories in a single year before he left Maryland for greener pastures in California, but he came back for a day and showed that he is still the same dominant rider that he always was. He won aboard four of his eight mounts, including Voodoo Lily in the $100,000 Columbia Stakes.
He had finished second in the standings at the recently completed Del Mar meeting against the toughest riding competition in the world, but is taking a break from the California racing at the Fairplex, which is something of a glorified Timonium.
"We're pretty much taking a week off and stumping around the country," Desormeaux said.
He said that because he had a mount on Ten Keys in a stakes at the Meadowlands Friday night -- he won -- agent Gene Short called trainer Wayne Lukas and asked if he had any horses who needed to be ridden in the East this weekend. Lukas had one: Voodoo Lily.
The 3-year-old filly had just been trounced by 23 lengths in her last start, and didn't look on paper as if she could beat the two New York invaders, Token Dance and Miss Spentyouth, who were the favorites. This didn't stop the crowd from betting Desormeaux's mount solidly.
Voodoo Lily broke swiftly and took command.
"She beat the gate and made the lead by herself," Desormeaux said.
But they were losing considerable ground and, besides, Desormeaux had a strong horse under him. The 4-to-1 Voodoo Lily repulsed the challenge of Miss Spentyouth in the stretch and held on for a 1 1/4-length victory, covering the six furlongs in 1:10 3/5.