07/02/2010 12:00AM

Borel's spring meet a fruitful one


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Any time you win a Kentucky Derby, it's been a phenomenal spring meet at Churchill. For the uncanny Calvin Borel, the 2010 spring meet not only was highlighted by the unprecedented feat of winning the Derby for the third time in four years, but at least one other noteworthy accomplishment as well.

Borel, whose win in the 136th Derby on May 1 aboard Super Saver followed Derby wins on Street Sense (2007) and Mine That Bird (2009), became just the second jockey to win 1,000 races at Churchill when he rode Gray Hart's Girl to victory on June 4. Day, with 2,482 wins, is the all-time Churchill leader.

The most amazing aspect to Borel reaching the 1,000-win plateau is that he had never been the leading rider at a spring meet -- until this year. After riding primarily in Louisiana and Arkansas to begin his career, he made Kentucky his main base beginning in 1995. He won a Churchill riding title outright at the 1999 fall meet and tied for top honors in the fall in 2006 and 2009.

Into the final three-day stretch of this meet, Borel had ridden 46 winners, nine more than Corey Lanerie, his closest pursuer atop the standings.

Borel, 43, is one of seven Churchill jockeys scheduled to ride regularly at the Saratoga meet that begins July 23. The others are Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux, Shaun Bridgmohan, Miguel Mena, Alex Solis, and apprentice Freddie Lenclud.

Leparoux returns strongly

For Leparoux, the return to riding after a six-week absence scarcely could have gone any better. The 2009 Eclipse Award-winning jockey won with his first two mounts here Thursday, marking a terrific start to his comeback from an injury suffered in a May 14 spill at Pimlico.

Leparoux won with his first mount, Class of Fifty Two ($3.60) in the fifth race, then came right back to score aboard Ticondero ($8.40) in the sixth.

"It's great just to be back working," he said with a grin. "But to win with my first two, that is even better."

Leparoux, 26, had been sidelined to recover from a compression fracture in a vertebra. Over the next couple of weeks, he will travel frequently from Louisville to ride at several venues, including Calder on July 10 and Arlington Park on July 17, before he heads to Saratoga.

Fox optimistic about Tizdejavu

Working on the assumption that Mine That Bird is vulnerable in his return from an eight-month layoff Sunday in the Firecracker Handicap at Churchill, where do horseplayers turn?

"I'm really excited about our chances," said Greg Fox, trainer of one of the main alternative choices, Tizdejavu.

Fox is somewhat concerned about the plethora of speed in the Firecracker, which could have as many as 14 starters, but he is confident that jockey Jesus Castanon will be able to get Tizdejavu to run another big race. Tizdejavu is 2 for 2 this year, with both wins coming in wire-to-wire fashion in two-turn turf races.

"The horse has shown versatility in the past," said Fox, who has carefully analyzed the race and believes four or five other horses are likely to fire out early. "But I'm not a big believer in changing a horse's style that works. I'm not going to make this too complicated. I mean, if they go a half-mile in 45 seconds, we could be in trouble, but hopefully it won't unfold that way."

The return of a Derby winner aside, Fox believes the Firecracker is living up to its Grade 2 ranking again this year. "It's another really interesting, and, in many ways, an evenly-matched race, very deep," he said. "This will be a great test for our horse."

* A handicapping contest is set for next Saturday, July 10, at Shenanigan's Irish Grille in the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville. Entry fee is $25, with all proceeds going to Second Stride, a Thoroughbred retirement charity based in Prospect, Ky. More information is available by emailing jeanamick@insightbb.com.

* Churchill has announced that Sunday will be a fan appreciation day with free general admission and $1 beer and hot dogs.