03/30/2016 10:07AM

Three-time Derby winner Borel retires, agent says

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Calvin Borel has won 5,146 races.

Hall of Fame rider Calvin Borel has informed his agent, Larry Melancon, that he has retired, Melancon said on Wednesday. Borel, 49, has been riding at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Melancon said Borel told him of his intent to retire Tuesday but did not give a reason for his decision. Melancon said he called Borel again Wednesday morning to verify that he still felt the same way, as Borel had horses lined up to work and mounts for the remainder of the week at Oaklawn.

Borel, who ranks 27th among jockeys in North American racing history with 5,146 victories, entered the Hall of Fame in 2013. He didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Melancon said he has informed trainers to find replacement riders for their horses at Oaklawn. Melancon, a retired rider, began booking mounts for Borel last fall in Kentucky. Jerry Hissam previously handled business for Borel.

Melancon said he has found Borel to be a “hard worker.”

“He’d get off a horse and tell you something about them,” Melancon said. “He’s a horseman.”

Borel on Wednesday did not work one of his top local mounts, the 3-year-old stakes-winning filly Cosmic Evolution. Borel has regularly worked Cosmic Evolution, who breezed right after the track opened in preparation for the Grade 3, $400,000 Fantasy on April 9 at Oaklawn.

Lon Wiggins, who trains Cosmic Evolution, said Borel had been scheduled to work the filly, but the rider’s close friend, Joe Johnson, stepped in for the breeze. Wiggins said he was not informed of the reason Borel was unable to make the work, but later in the morning, he learned that he needed to find replacement riders for horses he had Borel named on this week at Oaklawn.   

“I think Calvin’s probably one of the best that the game’s had around,” said Wiggins, whose father, trainer Hal Wiggins, used Borel aboard his Kentucky Oaks winner, Rachel Alexandra. “He’s a hard worker, a great guy, and a team player. The game won’t be as good without him here.”

Borel won the Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010). He also was the regular rider aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, winning the Preakness with her the same year he won the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird. Borel later starred in a movie about Mine That Bird entitled “50 to 1.”

Borel’s record in the Kentucky Derby made him a fan favorite at Churchill Downs, where he won riding titles in 1999, 2006, 2009, and 2010. He also ranks second to Pat Day in career wins at Churchill with 1,189, according to statistics from the track. He has a home in Louisville, Ky., as well as in Florida.

“Along with his three Kentucky Derby victories and his status as one of the most accomplished jockeys in Churchill Downs history, Calvin’s 20 years at our track were as notable for his relationship with our fans as his excellence on the track,” Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs racetrack, said in a statement. 

Borel won his first race Jan. 14, 1983, at Delta Downs. One of Borel’s first major wins came in 1991 aboard Free Spirit’s Joy in the Grade 1 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. Two years later, Borel struck with 108-1 longshot Rockamundo in the Arkansas Derby.

Borel won 5,146 races from 34,918 career mounts. He won 302 stakes races, with 93 of them graded, and his mounts earned $127 million.  

To read a DRF interview with Borel from 2013, click here.

john g More than 1 year ago
C'mon Calvin, just one more Ky. Derby aboard Mo Tom ! Down the stretch they come!
Mark W. More than 1 year ago
Borel has never played with a full deck.
Peter Rukavena More than 1 year ago
One of the most overrated jockeys EVER, outside of his Derby wins the guy lost on just about every big stage you can. He came to Saratoga a few years back, had one of the worst meets I've ever seen a Kentucky Derby winning jock have. He went like 2 for 50. The peak of his career pretty much spanned like 4 years 2006-2010. There are many of jockeys who have done a lot more with less.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Agreed!!! No business being in Hall of Fame
edwin More than 1 year ago
Jerry Mann More than 1 year ago
Leslie,shame on you. Calvin is one of the really good guys....
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
Notice he has not had much luck since his putrid act on breeders cup day in front millions of people. you were on top and you messed it up. now it's time to go away
Greg Jones More than 1 year ago
You have zero class Leslie.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Best of health and luck to you Calvin on the next chapter in your life. I can honestly say it was a pleasure watching the 3 KD wins in your very successful career. each time waving your crop to the heavens and always being thankful to God! your a class act Calvin! God Bless!
Steve Burns More than 1 year ago
My best memories were from Keeneland back in the days when the rail would be so good. He wasn't well known but his horses always over-performed for him there. Never had the best horse but that didn't stop him from winning his share.
Frank More than 1 year ago
likable person and jockey -- will be missed.  

I still cant believe the 2007 Derby - I had (bet) Hard Spun and I thought he was home free turning for home, then the seas parted and Bor-rail slipped through the rail with Street Sense and it was history in the making...
Bob More than 1 year ago
I have followed Calvin Borel ever since he brought home a 30-1 longshot winner I had bet on in a cheap maiden claimer at Louisiana Downs back in 1987. He may have been known as a  rail specialist but what he really understood was track bias and he even understood it back then.

The LD racing surface was a mixture of clay and red dirt and it could get very cuppy and deep along the inside after it had rained. On this particular day it was just that. The track had just enough moisture after heavy rains and a day of racing to make it sticky and it kept getting worse as the day progressed. The inside part of the track was taking the worst of it as it got chopped up by the horses hooves running down along the rail.

The races had been taken off the turf so every race was run on the main track. Calvin was on an old maiden $8,000 claimer who was a tryer that had developed a reputation as a bridesmaid due to his late running, plodding style. Calvin had obviously figured out that the inside art of the track was not the place to be on this particular afternoon. It was the last race of the day on a Thursday and most of the crowd had started to leave.

The only people hanging around were the hard-core rail-birds and the people who always hung around to bet the last race on the card due to the fact that they offered an exacta wager on the race, which was something of interest to many bettors since there were only a handful of races each day that offered any sort of exotic wagering.

For my money, I felt that Calvin's horse was a worthy WPS candidate. The old-timers at the track had a superstitious belief that you should always bet a gray horse running in the mud, and while the track wasn't technically listed as muddy, it was damp enough that the buzz was flying around about Calvin's mount, which  was in fact a 4 year-old roan gelding named Cajun Crimson.

My tendency was to forego the exacta wager because it was a $5 minimum bet size so I loaded up on a win place show bet, wagering $200 to win and $300 to place and show, figuring the old gray was more likely to run second or third than to win the race.

When they turned for home Calvin was bringing up the rear with "the Cajun." As they fanned out into the stretch he swung the old hard-trying gelding out into the middle of the track and set down hard in the saddle. With dirt clods flying all around him he went to work scrubbing on that old horse like he was the Sunday wash. As they approached the 16th pole he could obviously tell the old boy had gotten up enough of a head of steam to have a shot at winning the race. Standing at the rail you could see Calvin chirping into the horses ear as he tapped him several times with a  left handed stick.

The old Cajun extended his head and pinned his ears while the young Cajun kept on scrubbing, when they crossed the wire both were covered in dirt but they were half a length in front and Calvin was pumping his fist like he had just won the Kentucky Derby. I knew then that he was going to be a special rider. I went home that day with almost $13,000 in my pocket...a not so small fortune, even for a serious race tracker back in that era and O vowed to keep a close eye on Calvin Borel in the days, weeks and years to come.
slewofdamascus More than 1 year ago
nicely told
Bryan Waters More than 1 year ago
One of the best pieces of writing I've ever read on the sport of racing. Thank you.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Great career, loved by all, and as good on a front speed horse as he is a closer.  A true jock who is also a horseman.