Kentucky Derby

Borel: From journeyman to Mr. Kentucky Derby

For Calvin Borel to complete his improbable middle-aged trek from career journeyman to Kentucky Derby legend, all it took was borrowing from Yogi Berra.

It was just some deja vu all over again.

For the second straight year, Borel, the ebullient 43-year-old Cajun jockey, dominated the Kentucky Derby with a rail-hugging ride that led into the Churchill Downs winner's circle.

One year after Borel's dramatic ride on 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird produced one of the most unlikely winners in the Derby history, Borel did it again with trainer Todd Pletcher's Super Saver.

Just like last year, Borel saved ground throughout the 136th Kentucky Derby along the inside.

Just like 2009, Borel passed exactly one horse on the outside.

Because Super Saver laid far closer to the front than Mine That Bird, there wasn't quite as dramatic a late charge.

Otherwise, the trip into Derby lore for the jockey who learned his trade from his older brother, the trainer Cecil Borel, was remarkably the same.

Score another one for Calvin "Bo-Rail."

"It's the shortest way around," Borel said afterward of his penchant for winning from the inside, "just like my brother always said."

With the win, Borel is only the ninth jockey in the 136-year history of the race to win the Kentucky Derby at least three times.

Many of the other names on that list — Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Issac Murphy, Gary Stevens, Kent Desormeaux — are among the elite to ever to ride Thoroughbred horses.

But even as great as those riders are, Borel is the first rider in history to win the Run for the Roses three times in four years.

It's all made more impressive because Borel is a guy who seemed destined to be a career journeyman working in relative anonymity on the Kentucky riding circuit.

He first broke through in 2007 when trainer Carl Nafzger gave him the mount on the highly regarded Street Sense.

"Carl Nafzger, he gave me a shot to ride Street Sense," Borel said. "I thought that was my one Derby shot."

Here is a case where one decision changed a person's life.

So potent is Borel over the Churchill Downs course, he allowed Pletcher to snap his 0-for-24 streak in the Run for the Roses.

"I've said this all week, Calvin is a great jockey anywhere," Pletcher said after his win, "but he's five lengths better at Churchill Downs."

Borel first rode the horse that would become his third Derby winner at Churchill last November in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. Super Saver roared to a front-running, five-length victory.

The next time Borel rode the WinStar Farm horse was in this year's Arkansas Derby, when Super Saver was beaten by a neck by Line of David.

But Borel said it was that race at Oaklawn that gave him confidence for the Kentucky Derby because Super Saver showed he could rate — run off the lead.

In the week leading up to the Derby, Borel's wife, Lisa, said the jockey's confidence kept building.

"Todd likes for his exercise riders to work his horse, but Calvin asked if he could, and he came home so excited," she said. "Then, for how he wanted to ride this race, drawing the 'four hole' was just magic. He told me, 'Lisa, if I give this horse a good trip, he'll win.' "

With Borel having ridden almost exactly the same trip to victory in America's most prominent horse race two years in a row now, it's hard not to wonder why the opposing jockeys don't seem to do more to try to force him off his beloved rail.

"I'm not really surprised," Borel said. "When you are riding a race, you have to be in the place where your horse needs to be."

Four years ago, no one who wasn't a devout a follower of Kentucky horse racing would have recognized Calvin Borel.

As dusk fell over Churchill Downs Saturday, The Today Show was lining up an appearance from Borel. A man from India gave Borel's wife a silk necktie as a gift for the jockey.

With some deja vu all over again, Calvin Borel, the former journeyman, is now Mr. Kentucky Derby.

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