Kentucky Derby

Patience pays off once again for Borel

Calvin Borel had just crossed the finish line, completing one of the more stunning upsets in the history of American sports.

Having guided a completely overlooked 50-1 shot named Mine That Bird to victory in the 135th Kentucky Derby, the ebullient Cajun looked upward and pointed to the sky.

He was thinking of his late parents.

You have to think Ella and Clovis Borel would be amazed at what their son has done in the past three years.

Most everyone else is.

After a long career as little more than a journeyman, the 42-year-old Borel has launched a midlife career ascension for the ages and the aged.

With the patented "Calvin Bo-Rail" ride that Borel delivered to guide a onetime $9,500 yearling purchase to victory in America's signature horse race, the pride of St. Martin Parish, La., is putting together in his 40s, long after most jockeys peak, a résumé befitting an elite jockey.

On Friday, Borel sat astride the majestic Rachel Alexandra as that filly obliterated the Kentucky Oaks field by more than 20 lengths.

Then on Saturday, Mine That Bird's late-running 63/4-length win made Calvin Borel the winner of two of the past three Run for the Roses.

It made Ella and Clovis' youngest child — the family used to call him "Boo-Boo" because it was thought Calvin's conception was a surprise to his parents — the first rider to sweep the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks in the same year since Jerry Bailey (Sea Hero and Dispute) in 1993.

A jockey linking one's name with Bailey is akin to a quarterback sharing a passing record with Peyton Manning.

Rarefied air, especially for a jockey who spent much of his career as a second-tier rider on the Kentucky circuit — capable but rarely given a shot on the big horses in the big races.

"When it all goes well," Borel said, "it seems like a ball that just keeps rolling."

His Derby-winning ride two years ago aboard Street Sense was vintage Borel because it featured the jockey following his favored path, right up against the rail.

In some ways, his ride aboard Mine That Bird was déjà vu all over again, except even more daring.

Mine That Bird appeared to get jostled out of the gate, then was shuffled far back. At the quarter pole, the son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone was dead last by a whopping 6 lengths in a field of 19.

In the Churchill Downs grandstand, Mine That Bird trainer Bennie "Chip" Woolley had a sinking feeling.

"I was thinking I was going to make a real showing in my first Derby," Woolley said sarcastically.

Instead, for a jockey known for his patience, Borel had the field just where he wanted it.

When word first came that Borel might get the mount on Mine That Bird, the jockey and his fiancée, Lisa Funk, went on YouTube to watch the horse's races at New Mexico's Sunland Park.

"The horse was forwardly placed," Funk said of what they saw. "Calvin watched it and said he thought he needed to be taken back, then make one quick run."

Still last at the three-quarters pole, Borel finally asked the gelding to move. As horses tired in front of them, Borel and Mine That Bird roared along the rail.

At one point, Borel squeezed his mount through a minuscule hole inside a tiring horse and the two kept pounding toward the front.

The move looked spectacular.

"It wasn't that big a deal," Borel said. "He's a little horse."

By the top of the stretch, Mine That Bird was putting a head in front. By the finish, he'd won going away.

Atop the horse, Borel could be seen laughing uproariously. He kept screaming "50-1! 50-1!"

Suddenly, Calvin Borel has earned the right to be considered with America's top jockeys. At the least he's earned that right when races are run at Churchill Downs.

"Calvin Borel helped our horse," said trainer Woolley. "What a great, great ride."

For Borel, a sudden sensation in his 40s, it's more like a great, great run. If only his mom and dad could see him now.

"I just wish they could have seen what I've accomplished in my life," Borel said, his voice cracking with emotion.

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