by RON FLATTER

After the biggest name still left on the Triple Crown trail turned in a strong workout Tuesday for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, Exaggerator’s troubled Racing Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux addressed the big elephant in the room, er stable area.

The workout was Exaggerator’s only timed move since winning the Preakness Stakes on May 21, and it was Desormeaux’s first time addressing the media since completing an inpatient alcohol rehabilitation stay in Utah following the classic triumph.

The superlatives flowed during a 15-minute news conference following Exaggerator’s five-furlong breeze in 1:00.92, but it was after the workout discussion—a discussion in which the gathered media were told not to ask about Desormeaux’s rehab—that the jockey did open up.

“Well, I’ll say this about that,” Desormeaux said. “I think that my brother, mostly my wife and my family have supported me through all the years, and it was my turn to say thank you.”

And that was that. A perfunctory response to a necessary question. Otherwise he and his brother, trainer Keith Desormeaux, were upbeat with a playful dialogue about what Exaggerator did under Kent’s ride shortly after Tuesday morning’s renovation break at Belmont Park.

“In comparison, it was the same,” Kent Desormeaux said. “All systems go.”

“The same as what?” Keith Desormeaux asked. “You mean the last time that we worked him?”

“Yes.”

“So it went the same as the work preceding the [Kentucky] Derby.”

“Yes.”

“And the Santa Anita Derby.”

“Yes.”

“So he felt the same, responded the same, galloped out the same?” Keith asked with hope.

“Good energy,” said Kent, mockingly oblivious.

“Was it stronger?”

“Lots of fluidity.”

Still fishing, Keith said, “I’d prefer him to be stronger. Was he stronger?”

“No,” Kent said. “He was the same.”

A pretty good act from two brothers who are perceived to have a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy relationship.

The trainer Desormeaux did concede “the same” would be just fine from a horse who will be racing for the third time in five weeks and attempting to become the first Derby also ran to win the Preakness & Belmont since Afleet Alex in 2005—a fraternity that also includes in recent years Point Given (2001), Hansel (1991), and Risen Star (1988). American Pharoah, of course, also won the Preakness and Belmont but did so after also winning the Kentucky Derby to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

Exaggerator is among as many as 14 three-year-olds expected to enter the Belmont Stakes on Wednesday with a post draw ceremony at 11 a.m. EDT at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

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