Calvin Borel has pulled off an incredible feat: in just two weeks he rode the winners of the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He’s at the top of his game and it appears, from all reports, that he deserves to be.
42-year old Borel grew up in Louisiana, the son of sugar cane farmers. He dropped out of school in 8th grade to pursue a career as a jockey. He started riding in match races at the tender age of 8. Called “the hardest working jockey in racing” by some, Borel has racked up more than 4,300 winning rides in his career.
His career really took off in 2007 when he won the Kentucky Derby on Street Sense. True to his hard-working form, Borel put the roses aside and showed up to ride his other race at Churchill Downs that day: a 10-1 shot in an $80,000 claiming race. Even now, Borel is known for showing up at dawn to exercise horses and still mucks stalls for his older brother Cecil.
Known as “Bo-rail” by everyone at the track, Calvin’s signature rail hugging ride is said to have originated from an experience riding one of his brother’s horses when he was 15 or 16. Calvin lost the race after going wide. His brother had him cool out the horse by walking around the barn: every lap he moved a barrel which forced Calvin to take a longer route. His brother then pointed out that it was much quicker to take the inside. When asked recently about his penchant for hugging the rail, he says that it’s the shortest way around the track.
Here’s an interview with Borel that was published in the Bloodhorse right after the Kentucky Derby. You can listen to it as a podcast or read the transcript.
Over the weekend, Andrew Beyer, Sports Columnist for the Washinton Post, wrote a nice tribute to Borel’s skill as a jockey that’s worth reading.