Calvin Borel will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame on Friday because of a résumé that includes more than 5,000 wins and three victories in the Kentucky Derby.
But it is something else that makes Borel a Hall of Famer in the eyes of his contemporaries.
“The guy’s won three Kentucky Derbies and he’s out at five o’clock the next morning cleaning stalls for his brother,” said jockey Robby Albarado, one of Borel’s best friends. “His dedication to horse racing is far beyond anybody I’ve ever seen on the track. When guys make it big – you see it all the time – guys want to stay home and do this and that. Calvin’s never changed, not one bit, and that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame.”
Borel, 46, heads a large class set to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Also to be inducted are horses Housebuster, Invasor, Lure, McDynamo, and Tuscalee. Stalwarts August Belmont II and Paul Mellon also will be inducted as the inaugural “Pillars of the Turf.”
Borel was a bit of an under-the-radar jockey for a good part of his career, amassing riding titles at Louisiana Downs and Delta Downs. He pulled off one of his first big upsets in the 1991 Super Derby aboard 28-1 shot Free Spirit’s Joy. Two years later, Borel guided 108-1 shot Rockamundo to victory in the Arkansas Derby. In 2006, Borel won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on Seek Gold at 91-1 and later that year became the regular rider of Street Sense, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 15-1.
In 2007, Borel won the Kentucky Derby on Street Sense and would win the Derby in 2009 with Mine That Bird and 2010 on Super Saver. Things were going so well for Borel in 2009 that he took off Mine That Bird in the Preakness to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra, who beat Mine That Bird that day. Rachel Alexandra would beat males in the Haskell and Woodward and be voted Horse of the Year.
“One of the things I always said about him is I always thought he was the poor-man’s jockey,” said Jerry Hissam, Borel’s agent for 22 years before retiring due to health issues. “We never had big outfits like Todd [Pletcher] or [Steve] Asmussen as far as a whole stable goes. For him to win 5,000 races doing what he’s done the hard way; 40-some bones busted in his body and he’s still the same old Calvin.”
Borel is one of 28 riders to have amassed 5,000 career wins. Coincidentally, he entered this week tied with John Velazquez – inducted into the Hall of Fame last year – with 5,031 career wins. He ranks 33rd all-time in purse money won with $122,002,938.
Lure is one of the few horses inducted into the Hall of Fame that was not a champion. He won 14 races from 25 starts and won the Breeders’ Cup Mile twice. In 1993, he won six of eight starts, but only one Grade 1 and lost the Eclipse Award to Kotashaan, who won five Grade 1 races – all in California – including the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“That was an absolute joke he didn’t win it,” said Shug McGaughey, who trained Lure for Claiborne Farm. “He won five stakes on five different tracks. He traveled all the way, Kotashaan never left California.”
Prior to the 1992 Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream, McGaughey said he remembered looking at Lure in the paddock prior to the Mile “and thinking ‘My God, look at this horse.’ ”
Lure won that race and set a course record for the distance.
Invasor, owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, won 11 of 12 career starts, including all four of his races in North America – the Pimlico Special, Suburban, Whitney, and Breeders’ Cup Classic – in 2006 when he was elected Horse of the Year.
Housebuster won 15 of 22 career starts – including 11 graded stakes – for owner Robert Levy and trainers Jimmy Croll and Ronald Benshoff. He was twice voted champion sprinter.
McDynamo, who won 17 of 34 starts, was a three-time champion steeplechase horse (2003, 2005, and 2006), while Tuscalee who raced in the 1960s, is the all-time leading steeplechase horse in wins with 37.
Paul Mellon, who raced and bred under the Rokeby Stables banner, is the only individual to win the Kentucky Derby, Epsom Derby, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He donated and bequeathed millions of dollars to support equine research and Thoroughbred aftercare programs.
August Belmont II was among the founding members of the Jockey Club and served as its chairman from 1895 until his death in 1924. He played a key role in the revitalization of Saratoga in the early 1900s, organized the Westchester Racing Association, and opened Belmont Park in 1905. He bred 129 stakes winners, including champion Man o’ War.