Calvin Borel, a native of St. Martinville, Louisiana, set his sights on riding races at the age of 8, and spent the next 33 years working hard and dreaming of winning the Kentucky Derby. On May 05, 2007 before a crowd of 156,000 that included the Queen of England, that dream came true. Calvin “Bo-rail” (as his fans admirably named him for his ability to squeak through along the rail and win races), earned his nickname once again. Aboard the 9-2 favorite Street Sense, Calvin closed from 19th position, snuck through along the rail, and won his first Kentucky Derby.
Following his victory, wiping tears full of joy from his eyes, the always respectful Calvin gave credit to and thanked “Mr Carl” over and over for giving him the chance to ride Street Sense in the Derby, and fulfill his dream. The Queen of England and President Bush were so impressed with the care he showed for his horse after the Derby, pouring water on Street Sense’s head and motioning to the crowd of 156,635 to recognize the colt, that he was invited to the White House for a state dinner in the days following the victory. The hard years of work and dedication had finally paid off.
The next race on Calvin’s dance card with Street Sense was the 132nd Preakness Stakes. If they could win this race they could attempt the Triple Crown. Calvin’s first attempt to win racings Triple Crown came up short, losing by a nose to Curlin, a horse who would later win the Breeder’s Cup, set the North American earnings record, and win Horse of The Year honors two years in a row.
Having ridden the Superstar filly Rachel Alexandra in her past 5 victories, (the most recent being the 20 1⁄4 length Oaks on May 1st of this year) the day before his trademark rail skimming 50-1 shot win aboard Mine That Bird in this years Kentucky Derby, Calvin had a good measure on the abilities of both horses before moving on to the next round of his Triple Crown quest, but didn’t think that would matter as the filly’s current owners, Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer had no interest in running Rachel in the remaining triple crown events.
Three days after the Kentucky Derby Rachel Alexandra was purchased by Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables in partnership with Harold T. McCormick. Ironically, Jess Jackson was also the owner of Curlin, the horse that, just under two years ago, edged Calvin and Street Sense by a whisker in the Preakness, ending their opportunity to win a Triple Crown. Rumors began to circulate that Rachel’s new owners were considering the Preakness.
Two years and two weeks ago, Calvin was still dreaming of having the winning Kentucky Derby mount. Now he would be faced with giving one up.
Calvin made it clear though, to the filly’s new owners, that if given the opportunity to ride her for the rest of the year, he’d choose Rachel for the Preakness Stakes. When she was entered for the race, he honored her as his choice and stood by his convictions. Calvin then became the first rider in history to abandon a winning mount from the Kentucky Derby to ride a different horse in the Preakness. The decision paid off. Rachel Alexandra cruised to the lead after reaching Pimlico’s backstretch and held off the late charge of Mine That Bird to win the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes by a length.
After Friday afternoon’s announcement from trainer Steve Asmussen and co-owner, Jess Jackson, that the 3 year old filly Rachel Alexandra will pass the Belmont Stakes, jockey Calvin Borel has accepted the invitation from trainer Chip Woolley, and the owners of Mine That Bird, to rejoin his Kentucky Derby winning connections in their quest for a victory in this years Belmont Stakes.
If Calvin can add a win from the Belmont Stakes to his Derby and Preakness, this down home, folksy Cajun can write his name among the greats of racing folklore. No rider has ever ridden different horses to victory in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in the same year, completing what is better known as thoroughbred horse racing’s “Triple Crown“.
Only one other individual has achieved such a feat, trainer, D. Wayne Lukas has won the three races with different horses, in the same year, accomplishing that feat in 1995 with Timber Country winning the Preakness Stakes, and Thunder Gulch taking the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Thunder Gulch became only the 12th horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont after losing in the Preakness.
The brilliant 3 year old Mine That Bird has historic opportunities as well. As mentioned above, only 12 other horses have added a Belmont Stakes victory to their win in the Kentucky Derby after losing the Preakness Stakes in the Triple Crown Challenge’s 134 year history. Mine That Bird virtually equaled Secretariat’s record of 23 3/5 of a second for the last quarter mile in Derby history. With a record of 5 wins and 2 seconds from 10 lifetime starts, and earnings of over 2 million dollars, Mine That Bird brings a lot to the table. He won the Kentucky Derby by 6 3⁄4 lengths, the greatest margin since Triple Crown winner, Assault’s victory in 1946. Could Secretariat’s long standing records of a 31 length win margin and 1 1⁄2 mile in 2:24 soon be in jeopardy?
Mine That Bird has definitely made it clear that he is no pretender. Let us not forget Mine That Bird’s 9 wide effort in this years Preakness Stakes. He nearly defeated the heavily advertised “Best Filly in The World” Rachel Alexandra. This was no small feat at Pimlico’s speed favoring racecourse. A track renowned for having pile ups on its narrow turn for home, creating a distinct advantage for horses on, or near the lead, and forcing deep closers to circle the field. The Preakness Stakes is also a 1/16 of a mile shorter than the 1 1⁄4 Kentucky Derby, limiting Mine That Bird to a reduced version of his closing fury. The Belmont Stakes on the other hand should play to the Derby winner’s advantage with its wide sweeping turns and 1 1⁄2 mile distance.
Eight other horses are expected to challenge Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel in this years running. They include Flying Private (19th in the Derby, fourth in the Preakness); Derby runners Chocolate Candy (fifth); Summer Bird (sixth); Dunkirk (11th); and Mr. Hot Stuff; Preakness runner Luv Gov (eighth); and Brave Victory, Charitable Man and Miner’s Escape, with a ninth possible starter, Nowhere to Hide, trained by Nick Zito, considered questionable for the race.
Peter Pan Stakes winner Charitable Man and Kentucky Derby also-ran Dunkirk posted final workouts Sunday before taking on Derby winner Mine That Bird in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Charitable Man covered a half mile in 49.00 seconds under exercise rider Renzo Morales, not long after Dunkirk went the same distance in 49.57 under jockey John Velazquez.
Mine That Bird may be the favorite, but Charitable Man and Dunkirk could be the top challengers.
A son of 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid, Charitable Man missed the Derby and the Preakness after finishing seventh in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 11.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the 2006 Belmont with Jazil, says Charitable Man is ready to win. “We feel we’ve got the horse to beat,” McLaughlin said Sunday. “Mine That Bird we have a lot of respect for, Dunkirk, and other horses, but I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”
Dunkirk, purchased for $3.7 million, is looking to rebound from an 11th-place Derby finish after winning two races and finishing second in the Florida Derby in his first three starts.
“I feel he’s a top-quality horse, and has run well in three of his four races,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “The Derby, to me, I have to put a line through that race. I felt he didn’t handle the surface at all in that race.”
Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, the place were legends are made.
The oval were jockey Eddie Arcaro guided the great Citation to a Triple Crown victory, enroute to equaling Jim McLaughlin’s 67 year old record of six Belmont Stakes victories by the same rider. Were legends the likes of Woody Stephens won 5 consecutive Belmont’s. The stretch were Secretariat drew off by 31 lengths in a record breaking performance that gave him name recognition the level of Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.
Where will you be this Saturday, June 06, 2009 when history is being made? Don’t miss your chance to witness racing history!
Post time for this years 141st Belmont Stakes is 6:30 PM EST TV coverage on ABC will begin at 5:00 PM EST.
PHOTOS BY: Rick Buckley