Arkansas Derby: Maiden Sonneteer’s ‘Muscles Are Growing Up To His Bones’

Calumet Farm's Rebel runner-up Sonneteer galloped and schooled in the starting gate Friday morning and was scheduled to school between races in the indoor paddock at Oaklawn under the supervision of assistant trainer Julie Clark. 

Sonneteer is winless in nine starts, with four seconds and two thirds, but has earned $234,445. After being ridden in the Rebel by Richard Eramia, the son of Midnight Lute will have three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux in the saddle Saturday.

Kent Desormeaux has ridden Sonneteer five times for his brother, trainer Keith Desormeaux, including a fourth-place finish in the California Derby that was the colt's only stakes foray until the Rebel. Kent said his brother asked him about coming to Arkansas for the Rebel. Instead, Kent and his agent opted to stay and ride at Santa Anita, where the Hall of Fame jockey had more business, including in a Grade I race. Sonneteer, meanwhile, rallied to take second at 112-1 odds in the $900,000 Rebel, two lengths behind unbeaten Malagacy. 

“He told me the horse was improving dramatically in the mornings,” Kent said. “He got to say ‘I told you so' afterwards…. But my agent and I, and then Keith, decided that I should stay and ride the six horses I was on, rather than to come and ride Sonneteer, who was a longshot. But Keith told me that the horse was going to run very well and would enjoy the distance, that the farther we go, the better off he'll be. Kind of like Real Quiet. He didn't show that talent until he was able to run them into the ground in the distance races.”

Real Quiet was Kent Desormeaux's first Kentucky Derby winner, who in 1998 lost the Triple Crown by a nose in the Belmont Stakes. Real Quiet needed seven starts before winning, including two defeats at Santa Fe, N.M.

“I was very surprised, yes,” Kent said of Sonneteer's big Rebel performance. “I had breezed him a couple of times, though. He's getting stronger, getting faster, quite honestly. His muscles are growing up to his bones. He's a big boy.”

He said he had been discussing the Arkansas Derby with his brother since the Rebel.

“‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do?'” Kent said. “We just came to the conclusion that we both would like to take our best chances. We're family, so we'll keep it in the family to boot.

“God forbid, I stay home and he runs one, two, three in fine fashion. And then it would be impossible to get on him.”

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