Long before he reached elite status in Southern California in the 1990s, the Hall of Fame jockey made a name for himself in Maryland. He won the 1987 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey and was the leading winner at Pimlico Race Course in each of the next two years.
So when the 38-year-old Desormeaux enters the starting gate Saturday for the 133rd Preakness Stakes, the emotions he feels might exceed those he experienced at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier.
"Everyone knows how excited people get for the Kentucky Derby. Well, I get just as excited or even more about the Preakness," Desormeaux said. "I may have grown up in Maurice, La., but I grew up in the industry at Pimlico and Laurel Park."
After leaving Maryland in 1990, Desormeaux led the jockeys' standings 11 times in California. After that, however, he reached the winner's circle so infrequently that he decided the only cure for the slump was to return to the East Coast.
A move to New York revived his career, and Desormeaux culminated his return to glory by becoming the eighth three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Now, he's seeking to notch a second Preakness victory. This time, in his 11th Preakness, Desormeaux will be aboard the no-doubt favorite.
Big Brown was so dominant in the Run for the Roses that he is the only Derby competitor entered in Saturday's race. But that won't make winning the Triple Crown any easier.
"We just don't know how resilient the horse is," said Desormeaux, who is 23rd on the career win list with 4,971. "We don't know if he gets into a dogfight that he'll just say, 'Not this time. I'll catch you next time.'
"That's what is so awesome about the Triple Crown and the 11 horses who have accomplished the feat. It takes an absolute freak to be ready to go again in two weeks."
A year ago, Maryland-based jockey Mario Pino rode Hard Spun in the Preakness after finishing second in the Derby. On Saturday, Desormeaux will try to reprise the glory days he experienced as the state's finest rider in the late 1980s.
"The first time I saw Kent ride when he had the bug, it was evident he had a ton of talent," Pino said. "Not only the ability to ride, but also the instincts and athleticism. I thought he had a chance to be a Hall of Famer."
That, of course, is precisely what happened.
WHERE: Pimlico Race Course; Baltimore, Md.
POST TIME: 6:05 p.m.
TV: NBC-Ch. 26, broadcast begins at 5 p.m.