Kent Desormeaux grinned broadly.
"I feel as if I've been pumped up with helium," he said, after winning the 123rd Preakness aboard Real Quiet yesterday at Pimlico Race Course. "We've hit a single and a double, and now we're going for the grand slam."
Desormeaux had reason to feel so pumped.
A victory in the Kentucky Derby had put him into position to take aim at the Triple Crown, and when he and Real Quiet roared down the stretch to the wire, he knew they were positioned to make history in three weeks at the Belmont Stakes.
The bonus, he said, is that he was able to win here in Maryland, where his racing career began as a 17-year-old apprentice.
"Winning the Kentucky Derby was a lifelong dream, I'd had it since childhood," he said. "Coming down the stretch, the last eighth of a mile, I must have said, 'Thank you, Maryland,' a hundred times. I'm thinking, 'This one's for you, Maryland.' For all the trainers who put me on their horses and allowed me to learn the game, so I could take the step up to the next level.
"Now, we're going to the Belmont, and I know the weight of history will start getting heavier and heavier."
Desormeaux and Real Quiet will have the opportunity to become the first Triple Crown winners since 1978, when Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed to victory in all three jewels of the crown.
"Stick with me," said trainer Bob Baffert. "I'll make a star out of you."
Desormeaux doesn't doubt it. As he finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Victory Gallop, he said his horse still had something left.
"I think he's looking for 1 1/2 miles," he said. "He's looking for classic distances. He likes them."
Certainly, on this brilliant sunlit afternoon, Real Quiet liked the 1 3/16 miles he had to run yesterday.
Coming down that stretch, Desormeaux seemed to be laughing.
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" was the sound that came over the air. Maybe that's how it is when you win back-to-back Triple Crown races and set yourself up for the third jewel in the crown.
"I wasn't laughing," he said. "I was screaming. I was asking my horse for his life. I was screaming 'Keep going! Keep going!' "
And they kept going. And when they crossed the finish line, Desormeaux stood up. His legs felt weak with emotion. But his hand shot into the air. First two fingers, then one shot up. And again he was screaming.
"Two down, one to go!" he yelled.
In the grandstands, his mom, Brenda, could barely control her emotions as she clutched a rosary.
"From the time Kent was a little boy, he had a very competitive nature," she said. "And now it's paying off for him. If I were a peacock, my feathers would be spread out all around me."
Pub Date: 5/17/98