“I’ve had the same routine since I was 19 years old,” he told the Daily Racing Form in 2013. “I get up and work my [rear end] off, and then I go home and enjoy my life. That’s the end of the story.”
But now Desormeaux, 46, is finally confronting his disease: On May 31, 10 days after riding Exaggerator to victory in the Preakness Stakes, Desormeaux checked into an alcohol rehabilitation program at Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah.
“I am now in full understanding of the depth of my problem and I am now going to address it professionally,” Desormeaux said in a statement released by his agent, J.R. Pegram. “The reality was the fact that I thought it was time. I had family pressure, and my wife Rosie [Higgins] and longtime friend Michael Klein really thought that now was the perfect time.
“Things have come to fruition. They have slapped me in the face. I may have been in this rehab facility for only eight days, but I will have a correspondent for 20 more days who will follow me everywhere I go.”
Desormeaux was photographed at Belmont Park on Tuesday and is scheduled to ride Shrinking Violent in Thursday’s Intercontinental Stakes, according to AL.com’s Mark Inabinett. He’ll also again be aboard Exaggerator as he tries to win two out of three Triple Crown races Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. Accompanying him to New York will be a sober coach who will be watching his every move.
“Kevin McLaughlin, who is independent of the facility, is my sober companion and has 30 years of experience in this world [15 years of professional training and 15 years of sobriety],” Desormeaux said, per Bloodhorse. “He will fly with me to New York; he will sleep in my room; he will follow me back to Los Angeles. The program will not stop when I finish the program” at Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah.
Klein has been friends with Desormeaux for at least 25 years. He told Bloodhorse that they had dinner together the Tuesday after the Preakness and that he suggested “that he call a very fine doctor and interventionalist in Los Angeles, which he agreed to do, and I told him I would go with him.”
“I said that I shared some of his issues, maybe not as deeply as his, and Kent made the call,” Klein said. “The influence of his family, especially his wife Rosie, and I all played a role in him getting across the line.”
Desormeaux, who last rode May 30, said his more than 5,700 career victories are a good indicator of what’s to come Saturday.
“It would be very easy for me to say that my record speaks for itself,” he said. “I probably have one of the best in-the-money percentages of any jockey and I am mandated to take a breathalyzer test every day. The fans who put their money on Kent Desormeaux can rest assured that I’m ready and good to go when I show up for work. I have been blessed with a God-given talent to understand the speed, rate, and ability of a racehorse and how to get him to the wire first. I can only thank God for those attributes.”