08/09/2013 2:27PM

Borel credits family as he joins Hall of Fame

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Calvin Borel (center), his wife, Lisa, and trainer Carl Nafzger display Borel's Hall of Fame plaque following induction ceremonies Friday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – At Friday’s National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, trainer Carl Nafzger revealed the extent of his instructions to jockey Calvin Borel before he gave him a leg up on Street Sense prior to the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

“Calvin, do you like to ride races?” Nafzger asked him.

“Sure I do, you know that,” Borel replied.

“You have fun riding races?” Nafzger asked.

“You know that boss,” Borel said.

“Well, then go out there, have some fun, ride a race, and win the race, and he did that day,” Nafzger said.

Borel not only won the 2007 Kentucky Derby, but he would win America’s most prestigious race again in 2009 with Mine That Bird and 2010 with Super Saver. It was those three signature wins, along with major victories aboard the champion filly Rachel Alexandra, that helped elevate Borel’s blue-collar career. On Friday, that career was rewarded with the sport’s highest honor as Borel became the 97th jockey to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Borel, 46, headlined the 2013 Hall of Fame class that included contemporary horses Housebuster, Invasor, and Lure, as well as steeplechasers Tuscalee and McDynamo. August Belmont II and Paul Mellon were the inaugural members of a new category known as the Pillars of the Turf.

Borel, who started riding at the bush tracks of his native Louisiana, has amassed 5,031 career victories (tied for 27th all time) and purse earnings of $122 million, which puts him 33rd all time.

“I wish my mom and dad were here to see what I accomplished in my life; if they could only see,” an emotional Borel said to a standing-room-only audience that included 17 previously inducted Hall of Famers at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. “I was very, very, very blessed to have a good mom and dad [who] let me do what I wanted to do. I only went [through] the eighth grade, but I wanted to ride so bad. I had a good big brother, been there and done it, good guidance, and it made me who I am.”

Calvin was referring to his older brother Cecil, a former jockey and current trainer who made a rare trip outside of Kentucky to attend Friday’s ceremonies. Before heading to the podium, Calvin gave his brother a long embrace.

“I had good guidance, my brother just pumping on me,” Calvin Borel said after the ceremony. “He seen nothing but talent and said don’t give up, you’ll get there, it’s just a matter of time.”

On a dreary, rainy day in Saratoga, Cecil Borel said, “I think it’s a beautiful day. . . . I think he deserves it, and I’m very happy for him.”

After hugging his brother, Calvin Borel sought out his long-time agent, Jerry Hissam, and gave him a long embrace. Hissam represented Borel for 22 years before having to retire due to health issues.

“As long as I’ve been riding, I’ve never seen a rider and an [agent] stay that long together and get along,” Borel said. “We never had bad words. I showed up, he showed up. I did my work, he did his.”

Housebuster, the two-time champion sprinter; Invasor, the 2006 Horse of the Year; and Lure, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner who never was a champion, were the contemporary horses inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Prior to giving his speech, Borel was accompanied to the podium by his wife, Lisa, who thanked many of the horsemen who gave her husband the opportunity to ride in big races.

Housebuster, a son of Mt. Livermore, won 15 of 22 starts – including 11 graded stakes – and was the champion sprinter of 1990 and 1991.

“From the day he was born to the time he was retired, he was a champion in all aspects – ability, personality, and temperament,” said Bob Levy, the owner and breeder of Housebuster. “Very few owners in our sport are fortunate to be part of this caliber of Thoroughbred. . . . He was fun to watch, and I say many, many thanks.”

Invasor, an Argentine-bred son of Candy Stripes, won 11 of 12 starts, including all five he made in the United States. Rick Nichols, racing manager for owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stable, actually credited Ramon Dominguez, who only rode Invasor once with charting his path.

Nichols recalled a part of the Pimlico Special when Invasor appeared to be backing up before Dominguez reached back and smacked him with the whip.

“It was not only the most important smack I’ve ever seen a jockey deliver, but it was pretty hard, too,” Nichols said, evoking laughter from the crowd. “As they say, it put running on his mind, and he came flying through the field and won going away. Had Ramon not done that, Invasor probably wouldn’t have won that day and we probably wouldn’t have continued to campaign him in Grade 1 races.”

It was the young Fernando Jara who would guide Invasor through the rest of his 2006 campaign, which included wins in the Suburban, Whitney, and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Lure was never a champion, but he was a two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile, setting a course record at Gulfstream Park in 1992 and winning from post 12 in a 13-horse field at Santa Anita in 1993. It was the latter race that stood out most to Dell Hancock of Claiborne Farm.

“They got to the quarter pole, Mike Smith dropped down and Mike Smith said I thought he was going to sprout wings,” Hancock said. “He was just such a lovely horse and a brilliant horse and a real pleasure to be around. I’m thrilled for him to be in the Hall of Fame.”

Tuscalee owns the North American steeplechase record for career wins (37) and wins in a single year (10). The latter came in 1966 when he was the champion steeplechase horse. He was bred and owned by Alfred Smith, whose daughter, Marilyn Ketts, accepted the plaque on her family’s behalf along with Mary Ryan, a friend of Joe Aitcheson, who rode Tuscalee.

McDynamo, a three-time Eclipse Award-winning steeplechaser, owns the all-time record for purse money won by a steeplechase horse with $1,310,104.

Sanna Hendriks, who trained McDynamo for owner Michael Moran, said she remembered galloping him one day and thinking “if he learns to relax, he might be all right. Clearly, he learned to relax, and he was far more than just all right.”

The Pillars of the Turf honors those who demonstrate indisputable standards of integrity and commitment to the game.

Belmont was a founder of the Jockey Club, a breeder of 129 stakes winners, and a central figure in the revitalization of Saratoga and Belmont. Mellon a noted philanthropist and the proprietor of Rokeby Stables, was the only individual to win the Kentucky Derby, Epsom Derby, and Prix de l’Arc Triomphe. Mellon donated and bequeathed millions of dollars to support equine research and Thoroughbred aftercare programs.