Jockey seeks counseling for alcohol

Updated: July 20, 2010, 4:30 PM ET
By David Grening | Daily Racing Form



SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux has begun counseling sessions to address issues involving his alcohol use.

On July 1, Desormeaux failed a breathalyzer test at Woodbine, necessitating that he be taken off Hold Me Back, who went on to win that day's $200,000 Dominion Day Handicap under jockey Tyler Pizarro. In May, Desormeaux was noticeably drunk during a radio interview a few days after the Kentucky Derby, in which he received some criticism for his ride on Paddy O'Prado, who was beaten a neck for second by Ice Box.

Desormeaux, 40, said Tuesday that he started meeting with a therapist, Marla Edelberger of New Hyde Park, N.Y, shortly after the incident at Woodbine.

"I put myself in a program where I have a psychotherapist and she's giving me the direction that I need as well as I have a sponsor that is nearby that keeps an eye on me, that I have to check in with every day," Desormeaux said. "Either they see me or I talk to them."

Edelberger declined to comment, citing confidentiality issues.

While at Saratoga, where he will be riding beginning Friday, Desormeaux will take part in an alcohol program with some assistance from the New York division of the Racetrack Chaplaincy.

"We're going to be a liaison between him and some affiliate programs," said Nick Caras, the field director for New York's Racetrack Chaplaincy. "It's not our program; we're going to give him some options."

Desormeaux said he decided to seek counseling after both the incident at Woodbine and the radio interview, though he said he was on vacation at the time of the interview and doesn't believe that should be held to the same scrutiny.

"I want to make it plainly clear that I'm going to do the due diligence to get better and to be a better person at work," Desormeaux said Tuesday morning on the Saratoga backstretch. "It's real simple -- stop being silly. What happened in Canada was embarrassing."

Desormeaux said he has lost some clients -- most notably WinStar Farm, which owned Hold Me Back -- due to the incident in Canada. WinStar also owns Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, a horse Desormeaux had ridden regularly until the Belmont, where the horse was ridden to victory by Mike Smith.

Desormeaux, who won last Saturday's Grade 2 Virginia Derby on Paddy O'Prado, will have his two sons, Jacob and Joshua, with him at Saratoga for a month, something he believes will also keep him out of any potential trouble.

"Having them in my presence always makes me a better person," Desormeaux said. "I certainly want to be a good example for my kids."

Bill Mott, the Hall of Fame trainer who has been Desormeaux's biggest booster since he moved his tack to New York, believed Desormeaux's decision to seek help was a step in the right direction.

"I want my owners to know I'm riding somebody that's as good as they can get," Mott said. "Being clean would be part of that."

Mott noted that some of Thoroughbred racing's most successful jockeys -- Pat Day, Jerry Bailey, and Garrett Gomez -- have dealt with substance abuse issues.

"The list of riders that have had some substance abuse problems is a fairly long list," Mott said. "It just so happens to be some of our better riders."

Desormeaux, a three-time Eclipse Award-winning rider, ranks fifth all-time in purse earnings ($233,623,868) and 19th all-time in victories (5,312).