And then there were two. We’re down to the two most popular – specifically the most read – stories published on this website in 2016. The first eight are an eclectic collection of remembrances, recaps of inspiring victories and colorful columns. The second most read piece of the year dealt with an issue that affects so many, alcoholism, and specifically the public battle fought by Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Joe Clancy penned a column titled “Kent Desormeaux and the search for wisdom” published in his The Outside Rail blog June 10, the day before Desormeaux rode Preakness winner Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes, and it hit touched powerful and personal buttons.
“I know a whole lot of people who are recovering alcoholics. Many are in racing. Some are quite close to me,” Joe wrote. “I admire their courage, their ability to set aside that part of their lives, their skill at living one day at a time in sobriety and sanity. They didn’t destroy their lives, though some tell me they almost did, and they pretty much all left at least some destruction behind them.
“They wrecked cars, lost jobs, made bad decisions, hurt people and somehow came out the other side OK. They’re better people. They may or may not have gone to rehab or counseling. They may or may not still attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. They may or may not have relapsed. They’re not perfect, but they’re here.
“And for the most part, their battles were private. That’s why I feel for Kent Desormeaux. The Hall of Fame jockey won the Preakness aboard Exaggerator May 21. Ten days later he was in an alcohol rehabilitation program in Utah, and everybody knew. Everybody. Racing fans, owners, trainers, other jockeys, his friends, his enemies. Pretty much anyone with access to newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the Internet read or saw something about it. Now he's in New York, with a sober companion/coach, about to ride Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes. And everybody knows.”
Exaggerator finished 11th as the favorite in the Belmont Stakes, but later won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational to highlight his summer campaign that ended with another 11th in the Grade 1 Travers and a seventh in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby. Exaggerator retired in the fall while Desormeaux continues to fight his battles.
Desormeaux is in the midst of his best year in the saddle since 2009, accumulating purses of nearly $9 million through Thursday.
In the midst of his strong season Desormeaux exiled himself to a short stint in rehab, which Joe likened to “Steph Curry going to rehab 10 days after winning the NBA championship.”
“Recovery is tough enough without the world watching you, no matter if the world is waiting for a slip-up or cheering you on.
“To racing people, the news was – if not predictable – not all that surprising.”
Check out the full column below, along with the rest of the countdown. It all concludes Saturday when we reveal the No. 1 story on the Top 10 for 2016.
Check out the other stories so far on the Top 10 for 2016:
3: Sudden Breaking News: Von Hemel's taking it slowly with Suddenbreakingnews
4: Gretchen’s way
5: Remembering Johnny Griggs
6: Senior Senator rocks Maryland Hunt Cup
Mandola the wonder horse
8: Todd Pletcher and 2 important horses
9: The beauty of Barbados
10: Magnuson excited to be back in upstate New York