Kent Desormeaux, who was taken off his mounts Friday at Belmont after failing a Breathalyzer test, will not ride Sagamore Farm’s Tiger Walk in the Preakness.
Sagamore manager Tom Mullikin said Ramon Dominguez will get the ride.
"We just can't have that," Mullikin said Friday after watching Sagamore filly Millionreasonswhy finish second in the eighth race. "We're trying to be professional. We don't need those distractions."
Dominguez is tied for the best winning percentage among all jockeys this year (with Javier Castellano, at 25 percent) and has won the past two Eclipse awards for Outstanding Rider after finishing atop the earnings list. He has ridden for Sagamore before and was their top choice. He agreed right away.
"We picked up the top jockey out there, and we're not going to miss a step," Mullikin said. "Obviously, we talked to Kent and talked to his agent. I'm a Kent Desormeaux fan. We wished him well. But we all have responsibilities to uphold, and this is too big a race to have something like this going on."
Dominguez, who was the top rider in Maryland for three of his five years here, won the Miss Preakness stakes aboard Agave Kiss Friday after agreeing to take the Preakness mount.
"I'm excited to ride the horse, not necessarily [about] the way it happened," he said. "I'm happy they chose me to ride this horse. I know very little [about him]. I rode against him a couple of times in New York, and I will have to go look at a couple of replays to take a look at his running style."
Desormeaux was picked up by Sagamore, owned by Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, after his Kentucky Derby mount, Dullahan, was taken out of consideration for Saturday's second leg of the Triple Crown.
A Hall of Fame jockey, Desormeaux won the Eclipse Award for top apprentice jockey after dominating the Maryland circuit in 1987. He won three national riding titles in a row from the state and set a national record with 598 wins in 1989. He was named Eclipse Rider of the Year.
Desormeaux has twice taken a horse to first-place finishes in the first and second legs of the Triple Crown, in 1998 with Real Quiet and 10 years later with Big Brown.
This is not the first time Desormeaux has had trouble with alcohol. He conducted a radio interview while allegedly drunk in 2010, then was suspended for a race day when he failed a Breathalyzer in Canada. He said then that he would seek counseling for an alcohol problem.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after intentionally hitting a police officer with his car.
A New York racing rule implemented in late April states that the “presence of .05 percent or more alcohol in the blood by weight per volume … shall constitute alcoholic impairment and be a violation.” An investigation is under way. Desormeaux told the Daily Racing Form that he had wine with dinner last night but stopped drinking by 8:30.
According to Joe Pogue, an investigator for the Maryland Racing Commission, the state does not regularly test riders for alcohol but can do so with probable cause.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times