Desormeaux Patriarch, Founder Of Acadiana Downs Bush Track, Dies At Age 80 - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Desormeaux Patriarch, Founder Of Acadiana Downs Bush Track, Dies At Age 80

Harris Desormeaux

Harris Desormeaux died at age 80 on Saturday, April 22, 2023 at Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center in central Louisiana. The father of Hall of Fame jockey Kent and multiple Grade 1-winning trainer Keith, Harris Desormeaux was also the founder of the well-known Acadiana Downs bush track.

“My husband was the one who had a dear love of horses, and our first argument after we married was over a horse,” Harris' wife, Brenda Desormeaux, told the Chicago Tribune in 2008. “He was in college at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and working two jobs as a lab technician and a security guard. I was a secretary getting my PHT — putting hubby through [school].

“One day he came home and told me he had bought a Quarter Horse. I said: 'You did what? Where are we going to put it and where are we going to find the money to feed it?' Somehow we found the money to rent a stall and feed it. I never cared much for horse racing, but it's part of the Cajun culture. Kent's interest was piqued when his dad had the racetrack.”

Harris leased the land to build Acadiana Downs in the mid-1970s, building a five-eighths-mile racetrack on the property and scheduling unsanctioned match races for Quarter Horses and other contests for Thoroughbreds. Multiple leading riders across the country got their starts at Acadiana Downs and other bush tracks like it, including Harris' son Kent Desormeaux, as well as Mark Guidry, Randy Romero, Craig Perret, and Robby Albarado, among others.

“It was an unlicensed activity,” Harris Desormeaux told the Tribune. “We didn't apply for dates, we raced year-round. We paid no sales taxes. It was illegal to collect a fee at the door, which we did. It was illegal to bet horses, which they did. It was illegal to sell Calcuttas (a form of betting), which we did; it was illegal to sell liquor, which we did. And the sheriff would come to the races and send security if we needed it.”

An obituary posted on reads: “Harris was a remarkable man of our community who leaves behind a legacy of love and family values that will endure for generations to come.

“Born on September 2, 1942, in Milton, Louisiana, Harris had a deep love for horses and livestock farming. This passion led him to create the infamous Acadiana Downs bushtrack. He has six children of extraordinary success, including a hall-of-fame jockey, Kent, and a horse trainer, Keith, who together won an American Classic-The Preakness.

“Harris also enjoyed fishing and eating seafood, especially in the company of his family. His selfless yet humble nature was evident in all aspects of his life, from his interactions with his family and friends to his service to our country. Harris proudly served in the United States Army, and he was a man of great integrity and honor.

“He was a devoted husband to Brenda, his wife of 59 years, and a loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He cherished his wife and family above all else, and his love for them was unwavering and unconditional. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”

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