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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/19/09)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Calvin Borel, the jockey who made Triple Crown history this spring by riding one horse to victory in the Kentucky Derby and another in the Preakness Stakes, thinks he remembers the last time he rode at Arlington Park.

“I’m pretty sure it was before Arlington put that synthetic track in,” said Borel, speaking from the Churchill Downs jockey’s room Thursday night. “I think the last time I rode up there was when I won that stakes with Suave – that horse I rode for Paul McGee.”

That would have been in the 2006 Grade II Washington Park Handicap at Arlington, when the Jay Em Ess Stable color bearer foiled Stonecrest Crest Farm’s Perfect Drift’s bid for a third Washington Park ‘Cap win – and yes, Borel is right – because Arlington didn’t install its Polytrack surface until the 2007 season.

A lot has happened to Borel since that time. He won the 2007 Kentucky Derby and Travers Stakes aboard the Carl Nafzger-trained Street Sense, owned by longtime Barrington resident Jim Tafel, and this spring shocked the racing world by winning the Kentucky Derby aboard Mine That Bird, who returned the second-highest Kentucky Derby win mutuel in the 135-year-history of the Run for the Roses.

However, Borel’s surprises didn’t stop there. Two weeks after the Derby, he became the first jockey in Thoroughbred racing history to take off a Derby winner to ride another horse in the Preakness – opting instead for the mount aboard the filly Rachel Alexandra – who he subsequently guided to a one-length win over his Derby winner. Also, since that Preakness win Borel has passed Hall of Fame jockey Don Brumfield for the second spot among Churchill Downs’ all-time leading riders.

Now, Borel is slated to ride Friday’s initial night racing program at Churchill Downs and then journey to Chicago to ride in three of the sextet of stakes races that make up Arlington’s Prairie State Festival Day program Saturday.

“I’ve just been extremely blessed these last two or three years,” said Borel. “I’ve been on Cloud Nine all this time, and it really began when Carl gave me a start by giving me the mount on Street Sense and then stuck with me. Carl never stopped believing in me and that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Not that Borel’s career was exactly dormant before he got the mount on Street Sense. Obviously, his latest feat comes after being one of Churchill’s top riders for years, and his talent is also legendary in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the 42-year-old Louisiana native has been one of Oaklawn’s top riders each winter for almost two decades.

However, since the 2007 Derby, Borel’s newfound celebrity has allowed him to visit the White House, meet the President of the United States and the Queen of England, and more recently propel him to a guest appearance on the David Letterman show.

“That was fun,” said Borel of being on David Letterman. “He’s a very funny guy and the night I was on the show I got to meet Paris Hilton. She was a guest that night, too.

“But what was really nice was going down to Wall Street while I was in New York for the Belmont Stakes and ring the opening bell at the Stock Exchange,” said Borel. “That was really cool. I just wish Mom and Dad were still around to see all these nice things that have been happening to me.”

What about older brother Cecil, an exceptionally underrated trainer who has served as a mentor for most of Calvin’s life?

“Oh, he’s been on Cloud Nine, too,” said Borel. “Just like me.”


Entering Saturday’s 10th anniversary edition of Arlington Park’s Prairie State Festival, conditioner Chris Block is the Festival’s leading trainer by far with 13 victories from 37 horses saddled, while trainer Christine Janks holds down the second spot with seven winners from 25 horses saddled.

However, trainer Ralph Nicks has a perfect record – with two wins from two starters – both of which were made by Nick Mamatas and John Kerber’s Gentlemen Chester.

That 5-year-old son of 2000 Arlington Million winner Chester House won the 2007 Springfield Stakes here while still a sophomore, captured last season’s $100,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap and will defend that title Saturday – with Calvin Borel named in the irons.


Jockey Inez Karlsson rode three winners on Thursday’s Arlington program, while conditioner Tony Granitz saddled two winners Thursday.

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