Rail-hugging rides are Borel’s signature

Fast-break points — all Calvin Borel — from along the Derby rail:

21. Joe Hirsch, the late Daily Racing Form sage, used to say in praise of jockey Pat Day’s patience that “he’s the head waiter of the American turf.”

“If Joe were with us today, I think now he’d be saying that about Calvin Borel,” said Churchill Downs Vice-President John Asher on Monday.

Jockey Calvin Borel, who has finishes of first, third and first in the last three Kentucky Derbys, celebrated aboard Mine That Bird.

Jockey Calvin Borel, who has finishes of first, third and first in the last three Kentucky Derbys, celebrated aboard Mine That Bird.

20. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to qualify as any kind of horse racing authority, so take this for what it’s worth: I thought Borel’s rail-hugging ride that guided 50-1 long-shot Mine That Bird from dead last at the 3/4-pole to going-away victor in the 135th Kentucky Derby was one of the more epic athletic feats I’ve ever seen.

19. Has there ever been a better performance by a jockey in a Kentucky Derby? “I thought Bill Shoemaker’s ride on Ferdinand in 1986 was a great one,” Asher said. “I’d put Calvin’s ride Saturday right there with it.”

18. Which is not to say Saturday’s was the best ride Asher has ever seen from Borel.

“I’ve seen him put up more amazing rides on just some Wednesday afternoon out here,” Asher says. “I’ve seen him get through holes where no hole exists. He’s got the nerve — I was about to use a different phrase — to sit down there and wait for things to open. He has the patience it takes.”

17. Which is not to say that Borel always finds his way through. Says Asher: “Sometimes, he does get stopped. The shortest way around doesn’t always work for him.”

16. One thing I’ve always wondered about Calvin “Bo-Rail,” is how often does his ride-the-fence style make him the victim of the jockey’s worse nightmare, the injurious spill?

“Well, does 39 different broken bones, a plate in his wrist and no spleen sound like he’s had some spills?” asked Jerry Hissam, Borel’s jockey agent since 1991, on Monday.

Well, yes.

15. Yet Borel always goes back to the rail. Says Hissam: “Calvin’s always said if you begin racing with fear, it’s time to quit racing.”

14. Other than Susan Boyle, has anyone had a better career breakthrough in their 40s than Calvin Borel? More or less a career journeyman until he reached middle age, Borel, 42, has finishes of first, third and first in his last three Kentucky Derbys.

13. With his wins on the regal filly Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and Mine That Bird in the Derby on Saturday, Borel became only the seventh jockey to win both in the same year.

12. For a rider, putting yourself on a list that also includes Isaac Murphy, Eddie Arcaro and Jerry Bailey is as rarefied as air gets.

11. Churchill Downs’ Asher says Bob Baffert was telling people around the track post-Derby that Borel’s ride on Mine That Bird should be the tipping point that puts the jockey into horse racing’s hall of fame.

10. Says Borel’s agent, Hissam: “I’d like to think what he did last weekend, with the filly and the Derby, would at least get him in position for a (Hall of Fame) nomination.”

9. It was veteran trainer Carl Nafzger trusting Borel on eventual 2006 Breeders Cup Juvenile and 2007 Derby winner Street Sense that launched Borel’s late-career ascendancy. If you saw any of the jockey’s post-Derby interviews Saturday, you noticed that he kept thanking “Mr. Carl.”

8. Still, after Rachel Alexandra’s staggering 203/4-length win in the Kentucky Oaks, Street Sense is no longer the answer to the question “Best horse ever ridden by Calvin Borel?”

7. “Before Rachel, Street Sense was the best,” says Lisa Funk, Borel’s fiance. “But Rachel is a monster. Calvin says he’s never even asked her to run yet.”

6. For a guy who has, in the last four years, now won two Kentucky Derbys, a Travers Stakes, a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Oaks, I’m not sure Borel gets access to the quality of horses to ride that those accomplishments merit.

5. “For whatever reason, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Bobby Frankel, they don’t seem to call Calvin,” says Churchill Downs’ Asher about some of the nation’s elite trainers. “So Calvin just beats them, especially when they come here.”

4. Says Hissam: “I think now our name is at least among the top 10 of riders when people have a quality horse.”

3. Hissam says he has a goal for Borel. “As we speak, I think he’s on 4,729 winners,” the agent said of the career victory total of his client. “I think it’s Calvin’s goal — well, it’s a goal I’ve sort of set — to get to 5,000 winners. There’s no need to retire or even think about it when you’re going good.”

2. Two years ago, when Borel won the Derby aboard Street Sense, he brought his fiance, Funk, to the post-race news conference. The couple are still engaged.

Any wedding date set?

“No, we’re sort of playing it by ear,” Funk said Saturday.

1. After all, it is patience that has made Calvin Borel the new head waiter of the American turf.

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Comments

One Response to “Rail-hugging rides are Borel’s signature”
  1. Peggy Sue says:

    I’ve never seen a horse run so fast with all four feet constantly off the ground!!!….Calvin Bo-Rail was surely riding a BIRD!!!!….WOW !!…I Love this Story!!..