Over the last decade, one of the main features on Derby Day has become the now 45 year old, lanky Cajun, Calvin Borel, with his reputation of Derby wins. He carries with him the determination of a champion, experience and knowledge of one of the best of the trade and a genuine and colorful character unlike any other in the business. His 3 Kentucky Derby wins in the last 7 years has made him part and parcel of Derby Day itself.
Handicappers and analysts alike know that Calvin Borel is as much a “factor” as Beyers figures, pace, placement, speed, conditions and the many other facets that go into trying to predict the possible outcome. A good rule of thumb these days is to pick your Derby winner and then compare everything about your selection against Borel and his mount.
However, at the Breeders’ Cup in November 2010, a year and a half ago, Calvin Borel exploded in the winner circle against a fellow jockey in a cup race and things haven’t bee the same since. After that altercation Borel’s numbers have plummeted. His earnings went from $7Million in that year of ’10 to half that figure (with more mounts) in ’11 and to only $330K in the 1st quarter of ’12. And this from a rider who is approaching his 5,000 win.
It seems that this jockey, known for his method of scrapping paint along the rail to save ground, hence nickname “Bo-Rail”, is in a major slump. Could it be his age? Well, just for comparison sake Willie Shoemaker raced till he was 59. Quite possibly it’s a mental thing that only Calvin can break through. To compound the problem is the fact that when jockeys quit winning then they quit getting to ride the winners, which tends to compound the process. He’s got a long way to go with only 9 wins for the year, as of this writing. He needs a break, or a string of breaks right now just to be considered for a mount on a Derby contender.
Knowing the capabilities and determination of Calvin Borel, my bet is on him to succeed. In fact over the next month and a half his name gets an extra check mark on the daily program or an extra star on the racing form when handicapping each race he rides. These are his “Hunger Games”, to get the best seat in the house at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. It’s where he belongs.
This time of year owners are meeting with trainers to decide which jockey will be guiding their prize mount. And recently, with the injuries to some leading riders, Gomez, Dominguez and others, the juggling of riders may become a bit complicated. And that is just what the doctor ordered for future Hall of Famer Borel. If he can just put together a string of wins or a major upset in the next month then he should get his mount and when he does, make sure you take notice of which 3 year old he is awarded so you can figure in the “Borel Factor” on Derby Day.