01/08/2013 3:55PM

Oaklawn Park: Borel fractures wrist as Friday's meet opener nears

Barbara D. Livingston
Calvin Borel's quest for 5,000 wins will have to wait as he will be sidelined for the first several weeks of the Oaklawn Park meet with a fractured wrist.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Oaklawn Park was bustling on a brisk but clear Tuesday morning in anticipation of its Friday season opener. But later in the day it was announced that Calvin Borel, a fan favorite who has 4,999 career wins, would not be part of the opening-day festivities.

Borel, who worked horses Tuesday and was looking forward to his five Friday mounts, was diagnosed Tuesday afternoon with a small fracture in his wrist. The injury is expected to require a cast and will keep him out of action for several weeks.

“Calvin broke a small bone in his wrist,” said Jerry Hissam, Borel’s longtime agent. “He worked horses this morning, but when he went home there was swelling and he looked into it.”

On Tuesday, 135 horses worked and 85 were entered for opening day. Endorsement, the favorite in Friday’s $75,000 Fifth Season, led the long Tuesday work tab, shuttling three furlongs in a bullet 35.20 seconds in his final prep for the Fifth Season. Robby Albarado breezed the multiple graded stakes winner on what was Albarado’s first morning at his new winter base of Oaklawn. He has the mount in the 1 1/16-mile Fifth Season, which drew nine older horses including Win Willy, who would surpass $1 million in career earnings with a win. Endorsement will break from post 3, a draw that sat well with trainer Eoin Harty, who for the first time has a division at Oaklawn.

“The further you’re going, I’d rather be closer to the inside fence, save some ground going into that first turn,” Harty said. But “I don’t know what all the nuances are at Oaklawn. It’s a learning curve I’ll have to pick up over the next couple of weeks.”

Harty is one of several new stables in town, lured in part by the record purse structure to be distributed during the 56-date meet that runs through April 13. Oaklawn also is a destination for its strong 3-year-old program, highlighted by the closing-day $1 million Arkansas Derby.

“The purse money makes the meet very attractive, and it seems to be a very good place to prep a young horse,” said Harty, who on Friday also sends out the promising 3-year-old filly Liberty Girl.

Oaklawn was closed for simulcasting Tuesday and will remain closed through Thursday so crews can prepare the 109-year-old grandstand for another season of racing. They were waxing floors, washing windows, and testing the toteboard Tuesday. The meet is a central part of life in Hot Springs, a community of 35,000 that will swell on Arkansas Derby Day when Oaklawn draws more than 60,000. Friday, there could be 20,000 patrons on hand for an opener expected to be conducted on a mild, 65-degree afternoon.

“What happens Friday is a little bit like Christmas,” said Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn. “This is what we look forward to all year long. Suddenly, everybody that works at the racetrack, this picks everybody up.”

First post is 1 p.m. Central.