You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in racing who knows Kent Desormeaux better than trainer Bob Hess Jr., who has been friends with the Hall of Fame rider for many years and has roomed with Desormeaux in Florida and New York for much of 2011.
Hess, who left Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Wednesday night to check on his stable of horses in California, was shocked when he got the news upon his arrival that Desormeaux had been arrested for “reckless endangerment” after city police reportedly said he intentionally tried to hit a New York Racing Association security guard with the 2003 Porsche Carrera he was driving.
“There is not an ounce of meanness in Kent,” Hess told the Paulick Report Thursday morning. “He's like the class clown, a 16-year-old kid in a 41-year-old body. From what I've been told, he was goofing around. This has to be a misunderstanding.”
Hess, getting second-hand information from his Saratoga-based assistant, said Desormeaux was inching his car behind the security guard as a joke, but she was caught off guard. “She started crying, and Kent apologized,” Hess said. “The next thing he knows, he's in handcuffs.”
David Grening, reporting in Daily Racing Form, said Desormeaux told him he was “just playing around” when he drove the car within inches of the guard, but didn't hit her. “I was trying to be cute,” the Form quoted Desormeaux as saying.
The Albany Times-Union said Desormeaux posted $500 bail after being charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. The newspaper said a court date is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday. The incident occurred at 6:26 p.m., near an exit from the track following Wednesday's races. Desormeaux rode in the seventh and 10th races, finishing off the board with both mounts.
“I've known Kent a long time,” said Hess, “He's like my little brother. And I'll tell you what. He's happier than he's been in eons, and he's having a really good meet. He's in my barn every morning at 6:30, raking the shedrow, getting up on horses, working his ass off. He's doing really well. He came to the paddock in street clothes when I had a horse in the second race yesterday.
“Trust me when I say there's not a mean bone in his body. Does he do some dumb things? Sure, but again, he's like a kid. He's like the class clown.”
Desormeaux reportedly was in the stable area at Saratoga Thursday morning and was named on two mounts for the afternoon program, including one for Hess, Weekend Wish, a 2-year-old filly who Hess said was being scratched because the trainer said she tied up. His remaining mount was for trainer Dale Romans aboard Dullahan in the Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes.
The Louisiana native, a three-time Eclipse Award winner who was inducted in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2004, currently ranks ninth in the Saratoga jockey standings, with 13 wins from 52 mounts.
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