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Horse racing questions led by Desormeaux, Defunded and Flightline

After trick-or-treating while dressed as super agent Ron Anderson, consuming enough turkey on Thanksgiving Day to give a whole new meaning to the term overindulging, and then spending a ton of cash on Black Friday, our Answer Man has recuperated enough to address your queries.

As opening day at Santa Anita draws nearer, Eclipse Awards voters begin to formulate in their minds how they are going to cast their ballots and owners and trainers begin to make early plans for such high-stakes races as the Pegasus World Cup, the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup, The Answer Man has other things on his mind:

Q: So I see Kent Desormeaux is back riding again. How long was he gone and how long before he hops off the wagon again? I don’t know how owners put up with guys like him and Patrick Valenzuela.

A: The 52-year-old Desormeaux, a Hall of Famer, has been gone since January after being suspended because of an altercation in the Del Mar RV park last fall. It was the third time in the past two years he’s been suspended for alcohol-related issues.

Desormeaux is winless with 11 mounts during the Del Mar fall meet, but he feels it’s only a matter of time before he’s back in the winner’s circle.

“I didn’t forget how to (win races),” Desormeaux told Jim Charvat of Del Mar publicity. “I’ve done that 6,200 times. I don’t care that anybody calls me ‘oh fer’ right now. I’m pretty sure with the confidence of an owner and trainer we’ll get the job done.”

Desormeaux proved last year before his latest troubles that, when right, he can still ride with the best of them. Let’s hope he can stay right because he’s a joy to watch when at the top of his game.

Q: Defunded sure did look good winning the Seabiscuit Stakes at Del Mar last weekend. Why didn’t Bob Baffert send him to the Breeders’ Cup to run in the Dirt Mile? I think he would have blown away the other horses.

A: Baffert told writers in the winner’s circle after Defunded’s victory in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita that the 4-year-old gelded son of Dialed In was a “complete wreck” in the Del Mar paddock before the San Diego Handicap and he didn’t want to take a chance by sending him to Keeneland and having him act up at the Breeders’ Cup.

Defunded was a perfect gentleman before the Awesome Again and Seabiscuit and figures to be looking at a big 5-year-old campaign if he continues to mind his manners.

“He went through the paddock good, he went to the gate good (Sunday), so maybe we’ve got him straightened out,” Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said.

Q: How many more big Grade I races before we can close the book on 2022?

A: Four – Saturday’s $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and the Malibu, La Brea and American Oaks on opening day at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

The Cigar Mile drew a short field of seven, but it’s a contentious lineup that includes even-money favorite Zandon, White Abarrio, Get Her Number and Mind Control. The Chad Brown-trained Zandon will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

It’s possible Taiba, third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, might run in the Malibu Stakes, a race Flightline won by 11½ lengths last year.

Q: Do you believe Flightline will be a unanimous choice as Horse of the Year?

A: No. Gary West, formerly a racing columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is on record as saying he won’t vote for Flightline because he doesn’t believe the horse deserves the award off only three races.

No horse has won Horse of the Year off such a light schedule since the current Eclipse Awards were established in 1971. Ghostzapper won Horse of the Year off only four victories in 2004.

No doubt there might be others who feel the same way as West, but Flightline will easily be named Horse of the Year the night of Jan. 26.

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

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