05/04/2009 11:00PM

The ride of his life - again

Barbara D. Livingston
Calvin Borel celebrates after guiding Mine That Bird to an upset victory in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One time might be dismissed as an aberration. But twice? That's a trend.

Calvin Borel won the Kentucky Derby last Saturday aboard 50-1 shot Mine That Bird with a spectacular rail-skimming ride, the second time in three years that he has elicited praise for his cunning and skills in the Derby. A relative unknown before taking the 2007 race aboard Street Sense, Borel has joined an exclusive group by becoming just the 23rd jockey with two or more Derby wins.

Of the prior 22, only one, the late Chris Antley, has yet to be elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.

"The Hall of Fame?" Borel said, shaking his head as if the thought had never crossed his mind. "Oh, man, I don't know about any of that."

Of course he doesn't. As focused as Borel is, he does not care about the pomp and ceremonial trappings that coincide with major racing events or individual accomplishments. He is all about riding horses, winning races, and little else.

Ask him for dates, names, numbers, or riding titles, and you're likely to get a puzzled look and a shrug. But ask him about something like the wild ride he took on Mine That Bird, and he will joyfully take you through every step from post 8 in the field of 19.

"We kind of got squeezed at the start, and he grabbed hold of the bit for a second, but then I got him to turn it right off," said Borel, 42. "I thought, 'Well, that's good, I don't have to fight him.' "

Past the wire the first time, Borel already was hugging the rail while at least six lengths behind Mr. Hot Stuff, the second-to-last horse.

"Calvin and I had talked about him taking the horse back 10 lengths or so," said Bennie Woolley Jr., trainer of Mine That Bird. "He's a little horse that can't take a lot of bumping and banging. He can't absorb it. But by the time they hit the backside, I could tell Calvin was real comfortable. I knew then we weren't going to run last."

With a half-mile to go, Mine That Bird was still last but ready to roll. Borel noticed that "everybody was already riding their horses" and decided he would take his chances by staying on the rail. Approaching the three-eighths pole, the first horse he needed to slip past was West Side Bernie, ridden by Stewart Elliott.

"I yelled, 'Stew, Stew!' and he give me a little shot, let me come on through there," Borel said.

Mine That Bird immediately began to pass horses in clumps. Nearing the quarter pole, Borel had to maneuver around Atomic Rain, the only opponent he would pass from the outside. Borel quickly angled back inside and soon came upon a wall of horses near the eighth pole, with the early leader, Join in the Dance, racing closest to the rail - but with just enough room to his inside for a horse to get through.

"After I made the bend, I saw the hole on the rail, and I said, 'That's us,' " Borel said. "When we had to go through there, the little horse switched to his left lead and then back to his right, like he knew what he was doing."

The rest was easy. Mine That Bird drew off to win by 6 3/4 lengths, the largest margin of victory in the Derby since Assault won by eight lengths in 1946.

For Borel, the victory was even more emotional than his 2007 triumph. His father, Clovis, died in 2004, and although his mother, Ella, watched him win aboard Street Sense from a Louisiana nursing home, she has since died, too. Talking about his parents, Borel momentarily broke into tears while being interviewed by NBC's Donna Brothers on horseback just a minute or two after winning the race.

"My mom and daddy," he wailed. "If they could only be here to see what I accomplished in my life."

Borel's ride is being roundly acclaimed. Pat Day, the retired Hall of Fame jockey in whose shadow Borel rode for years at Churchill and other Midwestern tracks, said Tuesday: "I don't know that any other rider in the country would've won or could've won on that horse. Over the years, Calvin acquired an intuitive sense about when he can or can't go through on the fence. Obviously, it's something that works for him."

Trainer Cecil Borel, Calvin's older brother and mentor, said the many years of hard work and lessons learned have allowed his brother to achieve things beyond his wildest dreams.

"My wife and I spent our whole lives taking that young boy in, keeping him on the right road," said Cecil Borel, who is nearly 13 years older. "There are so many boys back home in Louisiana who could've made it like him, but it just doesn't happen. He's come a long way - a long way."

Borel will be back aboard Mine That Bird on May 16 when the gelding runs in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the 134th Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

"I'm going to ride him the same way," Borel said, "but I don't think we'll get as far back. If he gives me the same turn of foot, I'll be happy."

Mr. Fantasy, Charitable Man skip Preakness

After consulting with his owners, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday he will stick to his original plan with 3-year-olds Mr. Fantasy and Charitable Man, which means neither one will run in the Preakness.

McLaughlin said Mr. Fantasy would point to the Grade 1, $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap against older horses on May 25 at Belmont Park, while Charitable Man would be entered and will most likely run in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes, also at Belmont.

Mr. Fantasy, a New York-bred son of E Dubai, is 3 for 4 with a victory in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, a one-turn mile, in his most recent start. In opting for the Met Mile, McLaughlin said, "We feel he is a top miler, it's a Grade 1, 3-year-olds get weight; we'll just see how it all goes."

McLaughlin said a backup for Mr. Fantasy is the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens at seven furlongs on June 6, Belmont Stakes Day.

Charitable Man, who won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont last fall, finished seventh in the Blue Grass in his lone start this year.

The Peter Pan is expected to be just a six-horse field, including Al Khali, Hello Broadway, Imperial Council, Scorewithcater, and Stately Character.

Preakness field still in flux

The prospective field for the Preakness underwent quite a bit of change Tuesday. Besides Mr. Fantasy and Charitable Man being withdrawn from consideration, trainer Todd Pletcher pulled out Join in the Dance, seventh as the Derby front-runner, and Nick Zito withdrew Miner's Escape, winner of the Tesio Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico.

However, at least one other 3-year-old, and possibly two more, could join the cast.

Flying Private, the last-place finisher in the Derby, will run back in the Preakness, trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Pimlico officials Tuesday.

"We didn't get what we expected to get in the Derby," said Lukas, a five-time winner of the Preakness.

Also, Tone It Down, third in the Tesio, is under serious consideration, according to Michael Horning, a co-owner of the Medaglia d'Oro colt. Tone It Down, a winner in 2 of 6 career starts, is based at Laurel Park with trainer William Komlo.

In addition, Terrain was booked on a Wednesday morning charter flight to Dallas for the Lone Star Derby on Saturday, but as of Tuesday afternoon trainer Al Stall Jr. was leaving open the possibility of keeping the gelding at Churchill and pointing him to the Preakness.

In all, the Preakness count stood at 13 Tuesday, including six holdovers from the Derby. The field will be limited to 14, with entries to be drawn Wednesday, May 13.

* Mine That Bird went to the track Tuesday about 7:15 a.m., getting in an easy one-mile gallop for the second straight morning. Woolley, who again will pull Mine That Bird behind his truck in a two-horse trailer, said he is thinking about leaving for Pimlico after training Tuesday morning, so that he would arrive in Baltimore about 7 p.m. following a ride of 10 hours.

- additional reporting by David Grening