08/07/2013 8:43PM

Hall of Fame profile: Calvin Borel

Barbara D. Livingston
Calvin Borel is the only jockey in history to win the Kentucky Derby three times in a four-year span.

Calvin Borel’s induction into the Racing Hall of Fame will be one of the highlights of the ceremony, especially to those who have followed his rise from the bush tracks of his native Louisiana to the heights of the sport. The 46-year-old jockey has long been regarded as one of the best riders on the Midwest circuit, but over the past 10 years, Borel has excelled on the national stage, posting three Kentucky Derby wins and receiving accolades for his work aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

The youngest of the late Ella and Clovis Borel’s five children, Calvin began riding at age 8 and was fully immersed in horse racing by his teens as he began a professional career that would lead him to the White House and late-night television appearances more than 30 years later. Plying his trade largely at a handful of tracks in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky, Borel had by the mid-2000s become a respected journeyman with a handful of graded stakes wins and devoted followings at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park. A trio of horses would change his career trajectory, starting in 2006, when he partnered with the 2-year-old colt Street Sense and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a championship with him. The following year, the Carl Nafzger-trained Street Sense put Borel squarely on the national stage when he won the Kentucky Derby.

Two years later, Borel’s win aboard longshot Mine That Bird in the Derby may have surprised many, but certainly not the way he accomplished the feat. Borel – often called Bo-Rail for his penchant for taking the shortest way around the track – kept the gelding down along on the rail all the way around the track to score the big upset. The day before Mine That Bird’s victory, Borel piloted rising superstar filly Rachel Alexandra to a blowout win in the Kentucky Oaks. Borel and Rachel Alexandra would make history during the spring and summer of 2009, winning the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Whitney Invitational en route to Horse of the Year honors.

In 2010, Borel won his third Derby aboard Super Saver for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Borel received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2010. His career numbers are impressive – 5,031 wins and more than $122 million in purse earnings – but they tell only part of the story. Borel’s accomplishments and self-effacing personality have made him one of racing’s best-known figures and one of the sport’s ambassadors.

Career record (through August 7, 2013): 5,031 wins, $122,013,651 in purses, from 33,982 mounts

Achievements: Won the Kentucky Derby three times in a four-year span; one of only two jockeys with more than 1,000 wins at Churchill; earned George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2010; won riding titles at such tracks as Churchill, Oaklawn, Ellis, Kentucky Downs, and Delta Downs; inducted into Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2011; won the ESPY Award for top jockey three times (2007, 2009, 2010)

Grade 1 races won: Alabama S. (Lady Joanne, 2007); Apple Blossom H. (Halo America, 1997; Gourmet Girl, 2001); Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Street Sense, 2006); Florida Derby (Take Charge Indy, 2012); Haskell Invitational S. (Rachel Alexandra, 2009); Kentucky Derby (Street Sense, 2007; Mine That Bird, 2009; Super Saver, 2010); Kentucky Oaks (Rachel Alexandra, 2009); Mother Goose S. (Rachel Alexandra, 2009); Oaklawn H. (K One King, 2000); Preakness S. (Rachel Alexandra, 2009); Stephen Foster H. (Seek Gold, 2006); Super Derby (Free Spirit’s Joy, 1991); Sword Dancer Invitational S. (Grand Couturier, 2007); Travers S. (Street Sense, 2007); Woodward S. (Rachel Alexandra, 2009)