Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jockey Calvin Borel story

Jockey Borel living his dream
By Felix Chavez
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES —Although Mine That Bird was an unlikely winner in the Kentucky Derby May 2 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the jockey aboard the horse wasn’t.
Longtime jockey Calvin Borel has been one of the sport’s best during his career, which started as a young boy in Louisiana. He began riding in match races at the age of 8 and has been hooked on the sport ever since.
Now at the age of 49 and the winner of more than 4,700 races, Borel is enjoying some of the best moments of his career.
“It’s been a great career,” Borel said. “I’ve been fortunate to have had the success I’ve had. There are ups and downs, but I always believed I would be successful in some capacity. I’ve always been competitive and I’ve always believed that I have a shot to win any race.”
Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby at 50-1 odds with a sterling ride from Borel, who navigated Mine That Bird to a 6 and 3/4 length victory over Pioneerof the Nile, the largest margin of victory in the race since 1946.
The 3-year-old sire of Birdstone was way back at the start and then in customary Borel fashion rallied along the rail for the win. Borel is known as a jockey who likes to save ground along the rail.
“It was the ride I have been looking for all along,” said trainer Chip Woolley, whose horse ran second and fourth in stakes races at Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. “Calvin is a great rider and he showed it that day in the Derby. Calvin is very competitive and it was awesome to see him give the ride he did.”
Borel is no stranger to success at the Kentucky Derby. He won aboard Street Sense in 2007 and has also won several stakes around the country and also won the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 aboard Rachel Alexandra.
“Every horse means something to me, every big win is special,” Borel said. “Mine That Bird did a great thing in the Derby. He was 50-1, but people don’t understand he had a lot of success in Canada as a two-year-old and he is a talented horse. That day he took to the track, which was hit with rain and he liked coming from behind. It felt great to win that day.”
Mine That Bird, which has won 5 of 9 lifetime, is now off to the mile and 3/16 Preakness Stakes, which is just a bit shorter than the mile and 1/4th Kentucky Derby. The Preakness is slated for May 16. The sport hasn’t had a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“It’s going to be a different race,” said Borel of the Preakness. “We’ll run against good horses, but we hope not to be as far back as we were in the Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird has a quick turn of foot and he showed he can handle the distance. He came out of the Derby good and he’ll be in the hunt. I worked him before the Derby and Chip Woolley the trainer felt he was better than he had showed in the two races in New Mexico and he was right.”
Louisiana has produced several top jockeys over the years, including Randy Romero, Shane Sellers and Kent Desormeaux. Borel said the competition among them in their early days of riding has been beneficial.
“I’ve learned a great deal from those guys,” Borel said. “It’s neat to see so many good jockeys from our state do well, it’s a credit to how much hard work we put in and how much we love the sport. We all had to work our way up from smaller tracks to bigger tracks and that takes patience. But the time put in is worth it when you win the big races and achieve great things.”
Borel also has a strong ally in the sport in his brother Cecil, a former quarter horse jockey and currently a trainer
“Cecil has been there for me on so many occasions and I’m grateful for him,” Borel said. “I’ve learned from him and there have been so many other who have been there to support me. Without good people around me, I wouldn’t have accomplished as much.”

Felix Chavez can be reached at fchavez@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5444