07/13/2007 11:00PM

Familiar foes duel to wire in jockey event


Friday night's Cajun Jockey Challenge at Evangeline Downs could not have been better scripted if it had been the product of a roomful of Hollywood movie writers.

Twelve jockeys, all with strong ties to southern Louisiana, aboard mounts chosen at random, assembled in a four-race competition to celebrate the region's rich riding heritage. The event's major subplot was the friendly rivalry between Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado that was cultivated by the media during this year's Triple Crown, when Borel rode Street Sense and Albarado piloted Curlin.

Opening scene: The first race of the challenge was the third on the program, a six-furlong affair for Louisiana-bred maidens. Borel managed to get Evacuation ($29.20) to the rail despite starting in post 12. Saving all the ground through the turn, Borel slipped his mount through along the rail with a furlong to go before drawing clear, eerily reminiscent of a certain trip on the first Saturday in May.

Scene two: It was Albarado's turn in the second leg, as he broke Oriza ($10.40) on top in the seven-furlong allowance and steadily increased his advantage to prevail by seven lengths.

Scene three: No big night on the south Louisiana circuit is complete, it seems, without Kerwin Clark being heard from. His presence in the big races at Evangeline and Delta Downs has become almost legendary, so it was only fitting that he won the third leg aboard Kitty Violet ($10.40). A veteran rider, Clark won his first of more 2,200 races at Evangeline Downs in 1975.

Closing scene: The best is left for last as Borel, Albarado, and Clark are all tied in points heading into the final event. Borel and Albarado both rallied their mounts from well back, and it was Borel who prevailed by a head on Marion's Man ($15.60) following a spirited stretch duel not unlike what the two riders experienced, with different results, in the Preakness Stakes.

"This is sweet revenge," said Borel, who received a crystal trophy in addition to the first prize of $5,000.