141st Preakness Stakes Post-Race News Conference with Exaggerator Connections

exaggerator-by-Jon Kral/Maryland Jockey Club
Jon Kral/Maryland Jockey Club

Kumin, Ronnie Ortowski, and Matt Bryan, the ownership group, and Kent and Keith Desormeaux, the winners of the 141st Preakness.

Q.  Keith, you talked all week about the young three‑year‑olds, who can mature from week to week, race to race and you said that might be the difference between winning today and not.  And it looked like that was a good read on your part when Kent’s bringing him home to the wire, what’s going through your mind?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  What you said, that’s part of the equation.  But the most important thing is this horse is ‑‑ I’ve repeated this for two weeks ‑‑ is his ability to recover from his efforts.  And he recovered from the Derby quickly.  Even today, first comment, when he pulled up here at the winner’s circle was, Keith, he cooled out already.

And the horse has his heart rate was down again.  His respiratory rate was almost to normal and you could see a real calm look in his eyes.

Most horses when they run that huge effort, they’re bug‑eyed and rattled and sweated up even.  He was totally calm.  So it’s partly due because he gets over this track in like a duck to water for lack of a better cliche.

But that’s the main reason, his ability to recover.

Q.  Kent, just take us through the race if you could?

KENT DESORMEAUX:  He broke very well again.  And I didn’t think that the rest of the field left the gates like the Kentucky Derby.  In fact, no one was actually hissing at their horses or we actually kiss at them.  So I gave him two or three more jumps of bounding forward.

I noticed that everybody in front of me was, instead of moving towards the fence, moving out.  So I just ‑‑ I mean, I made a 90‑degree turn to get to the fence.  Tried to put him into maybe a two path, not being right on top of the fence and had an absolute dream ride.

I was able to let him just inch forward and let him just gain to the leaders slowly and quietly.  We got to the three and a half, and the rail was still wide open, but I thought it was way too soon.

The horse is way too fast.  If I would have punched he probably would have opened up three and maybe not make it to the wire.  So from the three‑eighths to the quarter pole I was actually slowing him down, asking him to wait.  And he just blew up and felt like King Kong.  And when I pitched him out he did what he can do; he exploded.

And I thought, well, since I’m clear, I might as well throw some mud in their face and not let them come back.  And I let him drift over in front of Nyquist and hopefully finished the job.  And he did.

Q.  Kent and Keith, did you guys share any kind of brotherly love afterwards?  Was there a moment just between the two of you where you said something before we saw you?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  We had an embrace up there.  But brotherly love, I don’t know, is it different than any other kind of love?  You don’t need to ‑‑ when you know you have that type of love, you don’t need to show it outwardly.  We know what we have.

KENT DESORMEAUX:  Well, just to reiterate, we should thank our parents because we have been raised to love each other dearly, and I looked at him, he looked at me and I got a fist pump.  That’s all that we did.

Q.  Keith, there are only three of these Triple Crown races each year.  The significance of winning at least one of them?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  That’s it in a nutshell.  Racing, this is the only time when we’re part of mainstream media.  It’s called an American Classic for a reason.  Those are some strong words.

So to finally get to win one, it’s kind of hard to describe now, but it sure is ‑‑ what I’m feeling now is just an awesome confirmation of a lifetime of dedicating myself to finding and getting the best out of a horse.  And also huge gratification to the man that entrusted me with that confidence, Matt Bryan.

Q.  Kent took us through his ride.  Could you describe what you were seeing what he was doing with the horse?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  I wanted to strangle him when I saw him go to the rail.  I was, like, damn, he didn’t ride a race today.

This is the only race he rode today, and I was, like, all these other jockeys realize that it’s a quagmire down on the rail, and I’m, like, what’s he doing.  But ‑‑ welcome to my house (singsong).  (Cheering)  That’s exactly right.  That’s why I can be so calm before a race because all the pressure’s off of me and this is why he’s in the hall of fame.  Those kind of decisions.  (Cheers and applause).

Q.  How about when you got further into the race ‑‑ Keith, as you got further on into the race ‑‑

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  Are you talking about post strangulation?  (Laughter).

Then I started worrying, why in the world, if he is so close to the lead approaching the far turn, we’re already three or four lengths off.  I looked over at my girlfriend and said:  I hope he’s not asking him to be there.  In other words, I hope the horse has done all of this on his own.  And obviously he had, because when Kent really asked him to run, he had plenty left.

Q.  Kent, similar question I asked your brother, thousands of races the significance to you to be in the saddle when you’ve won classics before, you won the Preakness before a couple of times.  What does this mean?

KENT DESORMEAUX:  It definitely is just an inward feeling of contention.  That simple.

Q.  Do you believe in your gut if you kept getting shots against Nyquist, did you think you would get him eventually?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  That sounds more like we would eventually grind him down.  I never felt that.  I always felt we had an exceptional talent in Exaggerator.  And Sol Kumin and Windstar realized that, too ‑‑ one, before the San Anita Derby and one after.  But it’s an exceptional talent that we have in Exaggerator, not somebody that needs to grind down his opponent and you saw that today.

Q.  Keith and Kent, how much does the track play into today’s race?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  You can’t deny, you can’t deny what’s happening here.  These are two huge races on/off tracks.  The one at San Anita Derby, I tried to play down because it was just a meltdown pace in front of us.  Today, the pace was acceptable and he still ran huge.

So you have to think that the track means a lot to his performances.  But his fast track performances are not bad either.

KENT DESORMEAUX:  Well, I want to make it clear that, yeah, you can give a lot of creed to the mud, but I also know the body blow he took in San Felipe, I know the air brakes I had to put on at the three‑eighths pole in the Kentucky Derby.  And I know for better terms I walked the track with Exaggerator warming up.  I went from the 8 hole to the 2 hole right on top of the fence two or three times checking out where the best path was and I thought it was the 2 path.

So those other horses fought and battled for six‑wide when I didn’t have anything but a dream ride.  And if they’re going to give Exaggerator that, I think on any track he would beat them all.

Q.  Both of you, is there a special resonance in winning a huge race, does this mean anything special since you guys basically cut your teeth here in Maryland racing 20, 25 years ago?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  For me that’s going to sink in along with the brotherly love later when you have time to reflect, but now that you say that, it’s pretty cool.  This is where I had my first job on the racetrack with a guy named Tommy Cavendis (phonetic) and the great Charlie Hadrey (phonetic) after him.  So to start here and to win the Classic here, it’s a little, what’s the word, not coincidental, but special.

KENT DESORMEAUX:  For me, I cut my teeth in the industry here.  The owners and trainers, absolutely, put me on a pedestal, and I hope they’re all very proud that they’re not wrong about what they gave me, because this is where I belong, riding classics.  I love it, and I was so very comfortable going around the racetrack.  (Applause).

Q.  Keith, have you guys thought about what’s next?  Do you plan to go home or to the Belmont?  And do you plan on taking on Nyquist again in the next couple of weeks?

KEITH DESORMEAUX:  Exaggerator has the best groom in the world who travels with him, Victor Vargas is here.  I’ve got the best girlfriend and assistant trainer over here, Julie Clark, she’s here.  Petey, gallop boy, is getting on him every day.  They’re ready to roll.  They’re not going back to California.  They’ll just hit the roads, go north, and we’ll settle in at Belmont.  And we can’t wait to run in that race.

Q.  Matt Bryan, your thoughts as you crossed the finish line today, and you were a owner of a Classic champion?

MATT BRYAN:  First off, just say thanks to Saul and Ronnie and the families here that are all here, and Keith.  And Kent.

I’ll tell you one thing, these boys right here are awesome.  They’re raised by a good momma and daddy.  So that’s the first thing.

And we’re very blessed.  So we’re just excited and blessed to be here.  Thank the good Lord above for this good fortune that we’ve had.

But the one thing that I will say that I’m probably the proudest of is to win this, with these two, and them to win it, is amazingly special for us as owners.

I mean, to have two Desormeauxes do this, I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but you know what, it hasn’t been done in a long time.  So if it has, that’s great.  But if it hasn’t, you know what, we made history today.  So that’s unbelievable.

Second of all, we got second in the Derby.

(Applause).  We got second in the Derby.  And I’ll tell you one thing, for a bunch of guys from Texas and one Boston guy down here ‑‑ we had to put one Yankee in this organization, bunch of southern boys.

But let me tell you, we’re sure proud to be a part of this.  We’re blessed to have Keith Desormeaux picking out these horses.  The O’Neill team, Dennis O’Neill, but it starts with Keith Desormeaux.  The ride is by Kent Desormeaux, but I’m going to tell you right now Keith Desormeaux, I’ll put you right now, we’ll put him in the hall of fame if I have anything to do with it.  (Applause).

Q.  Can you talk about your ownership?  Matt, can you just explain how your ownership team came together?

MATT BRYAN:  So my family and I, we got into horse racing four years ago.  My wife, Wendy, Taylor and Logan, my daughters right here, we got into horse racing four years ago.

Keith Desormeaux picked the first horse, a two‑year‑old called I’ve Struck a Nerve, won the Risen Star, 135‑to‑1.  You could have peeled me off the winner’s circle that day, too.  That was the highlight at that time.

But coming along, Ronnie came along and said, “I want to buy into some horses you’ve had some good luck.”  He’s a good friend of mine and customer.  And so I go back up to his office and say:  Hey, we bought these ten yearlings right here, which ones do you want?  Hell, I’m 65 years old; I want half of all of them.  And I said:  Well, okay, but Keith’s going to own some of them, too.

So Keith’s a part owner of Exaggerator.  I’m an owner of Exaggerator.  Ronnie is an owner of Exaggerator and Saul is an owner of Exaggerator.  Saul came in later this year.  We run this like a business.  We’re very fortunate.  But we’re not a bunch of billionaires just throwing a bunch of money around.  But we’re sure proud of where we are and grateful.  That’s how we got started.

And four years, I can’t believe we’re sitting here in front of the Preakness where Curlin won his race.  (Applause).

He won his ‑‑ the Preakness.  We won the Preakness.  Now I’m going to tell you now that’s awesome, Exaggerator, that’s the name for that girl right here, Taylor Bryan.  And Julie Clark.  And there’s mother ‑‑

Q.  Did Taylor name the horse?

MATT BRYAN:  No, it’s named after her.  (Laughter).

Q.  Can you explain that for me?  Can you explain that story, if you’d like to?

MATT BRYAN:  We’re in trouble ‑‑ well, us boys, we like to down in the south we tell fish stories.  But those girls like to exaggerate a little bit.  So we named one Exaggerator for our girls right there.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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