LOUISVILLE, KY. - In its most dramatic, heart-stopping moments, horse racing so often can be a game of split-second moves and desperate inches between winning and losing.
When it comes to racing in the Kentucky Derby, however, there is a built in house edge if you can get jockey Calvin Borel on your horse’s back.
So when he was looking to break his 0-for-24 lifetime batting average in the Run for the Roses, trainer Todd Pletcher made sure he had Borel contracted for one of his four entrants in Saturday’s 136th edition of the legendary race.
And it paid off for the trainer, owners Winstar Farm and the bettors who backed him.
“He’s a great rider everywhere but he’s five lengths better at Churchill,” Pletcher said of Borel, the Louisiana native who now calls Kentucky home. “It was great to have him.
“I told him to ride him like you own him. Calvin is an instinctive rider and he just knows this track so well. It was great to have him. It’s a real edge.”
So much, in fact, that he made Derby history on Saturday by winning the Derby for the third time in four years. Borel, you will remember, captured last year’s running with 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird, the former Canadian champ who became the highest-priced winner in the race’s history.
His affinity for Churchill is as well documented as his knack for riding the rail, a place where so few others are game to venture. More than that, he seems to be able to find the path needed as he did once again with Super Saver.
“I don’t care what any jockey says, they favour certain tracks,” Borel said. “I go to some tracks where I get lost.”
With his impressive effort on Saturday, Super Saver will head to Pimlico for the Preakness as the likely favourite in what is expected to be a small field for the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Borel feels his mount is good enough to capture the elusive Crown for the first time since Affirmed in 1978.
“I’m going all the way this year,” said Borel. “This is the year I’ve got to do it.”