03/14/2014 2:06PM

Borel impresses Hollywood co-stars in '50 to 1'

TenFurlongs LLC
Calvin Borel (right) portrays himself in the Mine That Bird movie, “50 to 1.” Christian Kane (left) plays co-owner Mark Allen, and Skeet Ulrich (center) plays trainer Chip Woolley.

Jockey Calvin Borel is now a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild.

The three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider who last year was inducted into the National Horse Racing Hall of Fame will hit the big screen on Wednesday. Borel plays himself in the new movie “50 to  1” that chronicles the story of Mine That Bird. The premiere is Wednesday in Albuquerque, N.M., with the film to open in the state on Friday, March 21.

Borel stars alongside Skeet Ulrich, who plays trainer Chip Woolley, and Christian Kane, who portrays co-owner Mark Allen. Both actors said in recent interviews with Daily Racing Form that Borel nearly stole the movie that is being brought to the big screen by Jim Wilson, the Academy Award-winning producer behind Dances With Wolves.

“Calvin’s acting performance was brilliant,” Kane said. “He’s nothing but charisma. He walked into someone else’s playground and just nailed it.”

“He was like a matador in a bullring in Madrid, so confident and yet so open,” Ulrich said. “As an actor, I thought he did an incredible job.”

Borel, 47, guided Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset in the 2009 Kentucky Derby for New Mexico-based owners Allen and Leonard Blach. Wilson said watching the rider in post-race interviews led him to eventually pursue Borel for the film. The movie, which has a tiered release, is currently scheduled to open in Louisiana and Texas on April 4; Arkansas and Oklahoma on April 11; and Kentucky and Tennessee on April 18. 

“I first thought we would get an actor to play Calvin,” Wilson said. “One, he’s riding, and two, it’s such a big part. It’s very difficult to play yourself, much more difficult than people think. But looking at footage of Calvin talking and doing press, I thought Calvin has to play Calvin.”

Borel agreed to the part after it was determined shooting would work around his riding schedule.

“I couldn’t go if I had a big race, so it took a little longer than it should have,” Borel said, noting Wilson’s willingness to work with his schedule. “It was an awesome experience. It was pretty cool. I got to be myself. I didn’t have to play another person, so it was more or less in the jocks’ room, and riding in the race, and being on the backside before and after the scenes. I was in my home, my second home.

“One thing about the movie, I think it’s going to be real,” Borel said. “If you know anything about horses, you’re going to see a lot more of what really happens [behind the scenes in racing]. Of course, I can’t say what happens. But I think people will really like that.”

Borel will be in attendance for the premiere, as will the retired Mine That Bird. It was the unforgettable performance the two gave in the 2009 Kentucky Derby that caught the attention of Wilson and led to the making of “50 to 1.”

“It was an amazing race,” Borel said. “I was last the whole way. And that was our plan, to be back there. Not that far back, but back. When I turned for home, I kind of squeezed on him a little bit, and really I had a wall of horses and had so much horse under me. It was just, ‘Calvin, find you a spot and go ahead do your job,’ and that’s all I did. The rail opened up – not wide, a very small hole – and I pointed him to it and he went on, and got the job done.

“He wasn’t a fluke.”

Mine That Bird, who is said to have a cameo in the movie, will be making other appearances in conjunction with the film. He’s scheduled to be at the Sunland Derby next Sunday, March 23; in Dallas on April 5; at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill on April 17; and at Keeneland on April 18.

As for Borel, his star power in racing was not lost on the Hollywood crowd making “50 to 1.”

“I got to give him a leg up,” Wilson said.

Kane cited the same experience as one of his most memorable in working with Borel.

“Putting Borel up on a horse, it was really cool,” said Kane.

Now, Borel and all involved with the film hope the public will enjoy the ride.