During the early part of the 21st century, no jockey was feared more at Churchill Downs than Calvin Borel. With Borel aboard, longshots at Churchill Downs immediately attracted betting interest and favorites got ‘steamed’ at race books all over the world. A three time winner in the Kentucky Derby, Borel has apparently retired from racing under slightly curious circumstances at the age of 49. If he has indeed called it quits he’ll finish his career with 5,146 victories, 27th among North American jockeys. Borel entered the Hall of Fame in 2013.
So far there’s been no direct statement or comment from Borel himself. Word of his retirement reached the sporting press through his agent, Larry Melancon. Melancon has been booking mounts for Borel since last fall and until earlier this week his client was still taking mounts at Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park. Trainer Lori Wiggins’ family has quite a history with Borel–his dad, trainer Hal Wiggins used Borel for Rachel Alexandra’s win in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks as well as the super filly’s victory in the Preakness Stakes. She shared her thoughts about Borel: “I think Calvin’s probably one of the best that the game’s had around. He’s a hard worker, a great guy, and a team player. The game won’t be as good without him here.”
Borel told his agent that he was planning to retire and to find replacement riders for his scheduled mounts at Oaklawn. Melancon was taken by surprise by his decision and called him the next morning to verify his plans. He also spoke highly of Borel’s work ethic and ‘horse sense’: “He’d get off a horse and tell you something about them. He’s a horseman.”
He was aboard three Kentucky Derby winners–Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010). Of the three, Mine That Bird was easily his most impressive ride as he guided the 50-1 longshot from the back of the field on a sloppy, muddy track. Borel had long before earned a reputation as a master of the Churchill dirt track and he won the track jockey title in 1999, 2006, 2009, and 2010. He ranks second to Pat Day in career wins at Churchill with 1,189.