Despite Losing Sight, Jockey's Son Cheers on Big Brown

Triple Crown means more than history for 10-year-old who's also going blind.


June 5, 2008 -- Big Brown's quest to win the Triple Crown isn't just about horse racing glory. His jockey, Kent Desormeaux, hopes to win Saturday for his young son, who is already deaf and is slowly losing his sight.

Jacob, 9, was born deaf. And doctors have told Desormeaux and his wife, Sonia, that Jacob is likely to lose his vision by early adulthood.

"'He's lost his hearing, but his memory is profound," Kent Desormeaux said. "I'm hopeful that if he's having a bad day, he'll just think about that day that dad won the Triple Crown, and hopefully, that will make him smile."

Even before he was born, Jacob's parents saw evidence their son would have difficulty with his hearing.

"We have a picture, an ultrasound picture of Jacob and he's actually holding onto his ears with both of his hands," Sonia Desormeaux told ABC News. "When he was born, for probably eight to nine months of his life, we would have to literally pry his hands away from his ears and pull them down. And they would go right back up."

After consulting multiple doctors, Jacob was ultimately diagnosed with a rare degenerative disorder, Usher syndrome. Now he has cochlear implants on both his ears. Without them, he'd live in silence.

"When I was born, my ears were broken," Jacob said. "I got a new one when I was 1½."

But in the past few years, his parents noticed another disturbing change when Jacob began losing his eyesight.

"His sight has changed over the last ... two years now," his mother said. "He first started with night blindness, where he just showed up one evening and started screaming for me to help him into the house from the car."

While Jacob knows what is happening to him, his parents said he is just focused on being a kid, with his big brother Joshua, 15.

"He doesn't feel any different than anyone else out there, ever," she said.

Jacob wears glasses and can watch his father race. And he is confident Big Brown will bring his father to victory.

"Whatever Big Brown's doing, it's just smart. ... He knows what he's supposed to do and he wins," Jacob said. "He doesn't waste his speed. ... He uses his speed really fast."

Kent Desormeaux, 38, failed in his previous attempt to win the Triple Crown. But Big Brown is unusual, he said, not only the fastest horse he has ever seen but also the most intellectual.

"He's a smart dude," the jockey said. "This guy looks right into your eyes, and he looks at you. He'll almost size you up. He's got a new sense I've never seen."

Though there was concern about a crack in Big Brown's left hoof, it will be patched Saturday, The Associated Press has reported.

So, all eyes, including Jacob's, will be on Big Brown, waiting to see if he will be the first in 30 years to claim horse racing's most coveted title.

But for Kent Desormeaux, the biggest prize would be to give his son an unforgettable memory.

"I had someone tell me, 'You know why you ended up with that child? Because they knew you would love him like no one else would,' " he said. "If I can get this done ... he'll never forget."

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