This Saturday, many eyes will be focused on the Belmont Stakes in New York, as Big Brown, a strapping bay three-year-old colt, attempts to become the first to win the Triple Crown in thirty years and thus go down in horse racing history.
Big Brown will be piloted by jockey Kent Desormeaux, who rode the horse to victory in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Kent has emerged in the racing world as one of the top jockeys of the past several years.
Kent Desormeaux waves to a cheering crowd after winning the Kentucky Derby upon the horse Big Brown
He’s also the father of a deaf son.
Kent’s son Jacob, who is nine years old, was born prematurely and later diagnosed as having Usher’s Syndrome – a genetic condition that causes hearing loss and progressive loss of vision. Jacob has been fitted with a cochlear implant and is taking speech therapy and auditory training; however, the family does know and use sign language also, as seen here where Kent’s wife Sonia signs to their son:
Kent’s wife Sonia signs “I Love You” to their son, Jacob
When Kent won the Kentucky Derby back on the first Saturday of May, Jacob was there along with his mother and his big brother Joshua to help celebrate – hollering “whooo!” and giving his father high fives. As Jacob’s grandmother Brenda described it:
It was so great to see him on Bill Stubblefield’s shoulders, shouting. He looked like the happiest kid on the face of the earth.
(Bill Stubblefield is a family friend.)
Interestingly, Kent himself has a hearing loss in his right ear… the result of a serious injury which occurred when he fell off a horse during a race and fractured his skull. So he does have some understanding of what his son experiences:
There’s the roar of the crowd, the starting gate rattles when they close it after the last horse is in…Hopefully, he’ll be able to feel those things, like I feel the ground shake when the horses are running. He’ll have to go to his other senses.
A happy father with his deaf son
As for Jacob, right now he’s just experiencing the excitement of seeing his father winning some of horse racing’s biggest and most prestigious events. After his dad won the Preakness, Jacob patted his mother on the shoulder and asked that all important question:
I wish daddy would buy Big Brown. Mom, can we buy Big Brown?
Unfortunately, Jacob’s mother answered with the typical maternal response…
“No… we can’t afford it.”