With no Triple Crown on the line, the Desormeaux bothers can still make their mark in history with Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness winner Exaggerator as the heavy favorite for Saturday's 148th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The 3-year-old colt, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his Hall of Fame brother Kent, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the $1.5 million, 1 1/2-mile race in Elmont, N.Y., the final leg of the Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown finale is the series' oldest, dating to 1867.
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist is not running after dropping out last month because of a fever from a high white cell count. Nyquist held off hard-charging Exaggerator by 1 1/4 lengths in the Derby and then faded to third as Exaggerator won the Preakness.
Keith Desormeaux knows what it would mean to win two of the major races one year after American Pharoah won the Belmont to become thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
But the trainer stops short of characterizing his newfound success as a dream come true after many years paying his dues at smaller tracks.
"I guess it would be if I didn't think we could accomplish it," the 49-year-old told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Thursday as he stood near the finish line at Belmont Park to watch Exaggerator. "It's a realization of many years of trying to get the best out of a horse so that we could reach this goal.
"This is a culmination of a lifetime of applying myself to horsemanship and finding value and to not only get there but to win one in my first evolution in the Triple Crown series is pretty gratifying.
"I've always been very patient and always confident this time would come. And thank God those perceptions were true."
Kent Desormeaux, the jockey with over 5,700 wins, is pleased his brother has finally moved into the racing spotlight.
"Now we get to hear from him because his horses are beating everyone else's horses," the jockey said. "I'm glad he can now have a voice because he can really train, obviously."
Exaggerator drew the No. 11 post position in a field of 13 entered for the Belmont. Exaggerator is 5-for-11 with three seconds and earnings of $2.97 million. His worst finish was fourth,
Stradivari, who ran fourth in the Preakness in his stakes debut, is the second choice at 5-1 from the No. 5 post and Destin, sixth in the Kentucky Derby, is the third choice at 6-1 from the No. 2 post. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher, a two-time Belmont winner.
Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine is 8-1 from the No. 3 post.
Kent Desormeaux returned to the track this week after a brief stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center in Utah.
"It's like a whole new me," the 46-year-old jockey told the New York Daily News. "I feel like an idiot for the last 35 years. What have I been thinking? I feel like a new person, I really do. I thought I always had it under control."
Keith Desormeaux said he gave up a long time ago trying to talk his little brother into getting help.
"He's a man. As men, we're responsible for our own decisions," the trainer said. "You can't grab another man by his throat and tell him what to do. I'm not gonna try to talk people into making right decisions. It's got to come from inside. I'm glad (Kent) finally manned up."