Kent DesOrmeaux and Big Brown head into the gate for the 2008 Belmont Stakes. Learn more »
Among the Cajun jockeys from small Louisiana towns who rose to fame on the national horse racing circuit, Kent DesOrmeaux is among the most successful. In 1989 DesOrmeaux set the current record for the most wins in a season by a jockey with 598. His 5,521 first-place finishes include three Kentucky Derby victories and the first win by a foreign jockey in a major race in Japan.
Born in Maurice on February 27, 1970, to Harris and Brenda DesOrmeaux, Kent was introduced to horses through his involvement in 4-H clubs. Like many of his contemporaries, including his older brother Keith, he started racing quarter horses when he was sixteen and later graduated to thoroughbreds. He was aboard Godbey when he won his first career stakes race on December 1, 1986, in the Maryland City Handicap at Laurel Park Racecourse.
DesOrmeaux rode Real Quiet to the winner’s circle in the 1998 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, missing the Triple Crown by a nose to Victory Gallop in the Belmont. He has tallied wins in major American races, including the Breeders’ Cup Turf (1993), the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (1995), the Kentucky Derby (1998, 2000, 2008), the Preakness (1998, 2008), the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (2007), the Belmont Stakes (2009), and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (2010).
He has won races at more than thirty-five major events across the country and three international races—the Queen’s Plate (1998), the Woodbine Mile (1998, 2003), and the Yushun Himba/Japanese Oaks (2001).
Through the 2013 season DesOrmeaux finished in the money in 14,096 of his 28,800 starts, winning $246,209,118 in prize money.
Securing his place among racing’s elite jockeys has taken its toll on DesOrmeaux. During a race at Hollywood Park in 1992 he was thrown from his mount and trampled, suffering multiple skull fractures that resulted in permanent deafness in one ear. He has broken his wrist twice as well as his collarbone and several ribs. DesOrmeaux is plagued by a painful foot condition known as Morton’s Neuroma, and he has struggled with alcoholism, with failed Breathalyzer tests causing him to be pulled from at least three major races.
DesOrmeaux’s awards include the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey (1987), the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey (1989, 1992), and the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award (1993). He was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2004.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Gisclair, S. Derby. "Kent DesOrmeaux." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published November 4, 2013. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1647/&view=summary.
Gisclair, S. Derby. "Kent DesOrmeaux." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 4 Nov 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Carter, John. History of Horse Racing: First Past the Post. London: Anness Publishing, 2013.
Gruender, Scott A. Jockey: The Rider’s Life in American Thoroughbred Racing. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006.
Mitchell, Elizabeth. Three Strides Before the Wire: The Dark and Beautiful World of Horse Racing. New York: Hyperion Books, 2002.
Mooney, Nan. My Racing Heart: The Passionate World of Thoroughbreds and the Track. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
Stevens, Gary, and Mervyn Kaufman. The Perfect Ride. New York: Citadel, 2003.