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Calvin Borel bio
Talkin’ Horses with Calvin Borel is brought to you by OCD Pellets – Build stronger bones. For more information, go to www.OCDPellets.com.
Ron: First of all, congratulations on your great weekend!
Calvin: Thank you very much.
Ron: We've had hundreds of questions submitted for you, and a lot of them are about the same stuff; you know I’m sure you’ve heard them before. Most of these people, they're big fans of yours and Mine That Bird, and they all say congratulations. We won’t read all those today, because we don’t have time for it. But certainly, you're the man of the hour!
Calvin: We try hard, sir.
Ron: Between Street Sense, Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird, who is the best horse if you could choose? Also, what are their different characteristics?
Calvin: You know, it’s kind of hard to put them in [inaudible 1:00].
Street Sense was a come from behind horse and you know, Rachel Alexandra, she’s pretty up par, you know. I can't take nothing away from Street Sense. You know, he was… at the time, he was the best horse in the country. Because we had Curlin and them kind of horses, you know. But right now, you know, I think Rachel Alexandra is the best in the country right now.
Ron: What about personalities between those three, especially Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird; what are their personalities like?
Calvin: They're totally alike. You wouldn’t imagine. You know, Street Sense too and Rachel Alexandra… I think that’s what makes them a racehorse. They're very relaxed, they have a good personality, they go to the post calm, cool, collective, and I think that’s one thing why and Mine That Bird runs good because he was very relaxed before the Derby, and all of the other horses were cutting up and everything. And I think that was a big plus for him.
Ron: So that’s a plus; you want to see a calm horse, rather than one… I guess a lot of racing fans think seeing a horse that’s really on its toes and keyed up is a good sign.
Calvin: Not in them positions, you know sir… I mean you have a lot of 45 minute post parade and stuff like that; you want them to be as calm as you can, to get to the gate. I think that that has helped Mine That Bird a lot in the last race.
Ron: Next question comes from someone named Phil Rizzi. “I read that you yelled out to Stewart Elliott to move over and give you room as you moved on the rail.”
Calvin: I didn’t yell that. I mean I just said Stu, you know… because he was a little close to the fence, you know, and his horse was you know, really, really stopping … I mean he was just, you know, not doing nothing. He seen me before I even hollered, you know, and I said Stu, and then when I went by, you know, he said, “Go get ‘em,” and I said “Okay, Stu.” I mean it wasn’t really a holler, you know, because it was a little tight and that his horse was stopping so fast. You know, I mean … it was just a … not even a second split thing, you know.
Ron: Right. I guess within the jockey community, if you know you're on a horse that can't keep pace and somebody needs to get through, you kind of honor that and allow them to do that, rather than trying to block them.
Calvin: Well sure, yeah. You always, always do that. You're not going to stop a horse from winning. I mean, you know, it’s different if you're … you know, you both … I mean head and head or you’ve got a lot of horse under you, then you're gonna race ride. But when you're last – and he was second to last – I was mad. He was beating, you know, whipping his horse – and you know, I’d do the same thing. You know, I mean it’s just natural … I mean if you have any personality in riding and racing, you know, I mean … now it’s different if you both have horses and you go into that position, well sure, you're going to do your best to keep the other horse from winning and try to win in yourself. But 85% of the riders that ride, they race them like that, you know, you can't keep a straight course and just ride with confidence. Really and truly, me and Stewart, we go back way, way, way back. He’s a very good guy. You couldn’t ask for a better rider to ride against. I’d do the same thing in that situation, and he knows that.
Ron: So really, there is nothing to be gained. If you're on a horse that can't keep pace, there is nothing to be gained by blocking a horse that you know has got better ability coming through.
Calvin: Right, yeah, at that time. You know, when you're last and second to last, you know it’s kind of hard just to … you know, just getting away and stop a horse from performing his best. You know what I mean? Like I said, now it’s totally different if you're going to the same hole and you’ve got a lot of horse, then where you have to ride your race … I mean you don’t drop him, but you're gonna try to put him in that position. You can run him up a horse or something and try to ride your own race and get there before they do.
Ron: What was going through your mind as you sought running room in the Derby and went through what seemed like an impossible hole?
Calvin: Well, I pulled my goggles down… I mean this is the first Derby that I've ever been in my life where they never would spread out horses, you know. The widest horse is maybe 4 wide the whole race. So I knew when I made my run if I had any kind of horse, I could have went around the three or four horses, but the opportunity comes in an open fence, so that’s why I went there. And I mean it took a split second, he was in and out of it, but I had a lot of horse. I knew I had a lot of horse. I mean I saw I could get in there and ride him to get in there.
Ron: Do you think that had you gone through the outside, you still could have won?
Calvin: Oh yes, sir. Yeah.
Ron: Really? Good. That’s good to know. Next question (From Carolyn) – this kind of something we've already touched on, but after the Oaks, you said that you were glad Rachel Alexandra didn’t run the Derby, but that you didn’t think the colts could have run with her. When would be the right time for her to face the boys, in your opinion?
Calvin: You know, I think she can take the boys any time she wants. Like I told y’all before, I think she’s the best filly in the country right now.
Ron: Best horse in the country?
Calvin: Best – yeah, in the country. Sir, I've never asked to do anything; she’s a freak, she’s unbelievable. I don’t know how good she is. It’s really scary. I mean I've never asked her to run – I mean I don’t know how good she is, sir.
Ron: I guess we’ll find out soon, right?
Calvin: Oh yeah, we’ll find out. We’ll have one coming along try to get us.
Ron: The next question comes from Alex C. “In watching your interaction with Mine That Bird at the barn the morning after the Derby, I got a sense that you have a deeper connection with that horse. Can you talk a little bit about your relationships with Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra.”
Calvin: I always have a good connection with my horse. I get on them in the morning, that helps a lot. You know, you get to feel them and everything. You know, you find their little pokes, this and that. In fact, I’d say Mine That Bird, I've got to give a lot of credit to the trainer because he had him so fit and ready to run. Like he told me before the race, all week long, he said “Calvin, the only thing I want you to do is just take him back to last and create a three-eighths of a mile run.” He said, “I've been on him myself, and I know he can go the last three-eighths in :36-:37,” but I never could get it either to do that. And when I started watching these reruns, I could see what he was talking about, you know, they were moving him about the three-quarter pole and then he’d make the lead about the 1/16th pole and just hang. It was taking everything out of him.
Ron: And that maybe what happened in the Derby with those other horses, right? I mean they used all their energy early?
Calvin: Exactly. I learned that from Carl Nafzger you know what I mean? The first three-quarters of a mile don’t mean nothing; it’s always the last half a mile.
Ron: That’s great to know. You're giving away some of your trade secrets here, Calvin. Next question – who have been your role models, both as a person and as a jockey?
Calvin: One of my brothers was obviously my brother. He kept me straight me all my life and made me work hard and accomplish everything.
Ron: And then as a jockey – role models.
Calvin: I was a great fan of Laffit Pincay. I just loved the way he’d finish on a horse. You know, he was strong. I mean I think he was the most – greatest rider in America, you know. Because he was so strong on a horse. I seen him hook ride at some lane, and he win the race, not the horse. He was my role model all the time.
Ron: Which other jockeys, either active or retired, did you admire the most?
Calvin: Pat Day – I admire Pat Day a lot, you know, because he had a lot of class. Very classy guy. And you know, we were very close. We were kind of in the same corner all the time. Pat helped me out a lot, you know, when I got depressed and stuff like that. You know, he sat down and talked to me and said you know, we have bad times, good times … he was always, always there to help me. I've got to give Pat a lot of credit about that, because he tried to help every rider; you know, that got down and stuff, you know… and I know one thing, he really, really helped me a lot.
Ron: That’s great. That’s what we always hear about Pat Day.
Calvin: Yes, sir, a good guy.
Ron: Next question – how many injuries have you had during your career, and which was the most serious?
Calvin: Hmm, I know I got about 37 bones busted, and then I stayed in intensive care for eight days when I had busted all my ribs and they took out my spleen, punctured my lungs, and ended up putting plastic ribs on, shattered my knees – it was really bad … it was about the second year in my career.
Ron: Wow. So I would say that with all that, it’d be hard to pick which one was the most serious.
Calvin: Yes, sir.
Ron: Does the possibility of injury enter your mind as you're riding in a race?
Calvin: No, sir. Not at all. When that’s gonna come, I’m gonna retire, sir. When I wake up one morning and ever think that I’m gonna be… you know, have any feeling that I’m going to be a little scared of something like that, I’m retiring, because I think that’s when you really will get hurt.
Ron: So you didn’t want to ride scared?
Calvin: No, sir. I can promise you that.
Ron: Next question – after your first Derby win, were you more in demand by trainers on a national basis that wanted you to travel around the country to ride in big races?
Calvin: Oh yes. Yes, sir. It helped a lot. We got a lot of calls to go ride different horses – good horses and stuff like that. It was a big stepping stone. I went to Saratoga and did so good there. Like I say, I've got to give a lot of credit to Mr. Carl for giving me the opportunity to ride Street Sense. I knew from day one, he was my horse, you know, win, lose or draw, and I knew he was a great horse. Yeah, it helped me a lot, believe me you.
Ron: Now, you and your agent, Jerry Hissam, have been together for a long time and obviously, you have a great working relationship. With your success in the Derbies and now the Oaks, have other agents tried to get you to go other places and lure you away?
Calvin: No. They know me and Jerry – we been together for 19 years, you know what I mean – they wouldn’t even ask that question because it would be a stupid question.
Ron: That’s good that they have enough sense to realize that.
Calvin: I've been with Jerry for 19 years and we've never had two bad words. We always work things out. I mean, I listen to him, he listens to me, and we just sit down and talk. It’s always been good. You know, I mean I never had an agent approach me, like I say, because they know it would be a stupid question.
Ron: Right. Gosh, 19 years, that’s longer than most marriages. I (From Kelly M.) would like to know if you have any rituals that you go through before every race? Do you have any superstitions?
Calvin: No, sir, I don’t have no superstitions. I get focused, pumped up, ready to ride. I look at the form, I go over it good, and I try to see where every horse is going to be in every race. And it’s not saying that that’s gonna happen, you know, some speed horses might get left. So you know, then I might put my horse in a little different position, but I don’t even know how my horse is going to break. So it’s kind of hard to say what’s gonna happen, you know. But 85% of the time, it almost happens like you expect it to happen, you know. That’s what I go by.
Ron: So you're more preparation, rather than superstition.
Calvin: Yes, sir. Oh yeah.
Ron: (From Emily LaBona) How did you know you wanted to be a jockey?
Calvin: When I was born, I wanted to be a jockey, sir. I mean I rode in the bush tracks, and I went to the 8th grade, I was on horses when I was 4 years old. When I left home, I was like 12 years old and my brother told me – told my mom and dad, you know, “he’s just a natural. He has nothing but talent, … you know, that’s what he wants to do,” and my dream was to win the Derby. And you know, my daddy just pulled me on the side and said “Son, if that’s what you wanna do, you're gonna have to work for it. Nobody’s gonna give it to you.” I worked every day and I got there.
Ron: So really, you were born to be a jockey.
Calvin: Yes, sir. I think I was.
Ron: Speaking of those days in Louisiana and early on, (From Eddie King Jr.) what's your craziest story about riding as a kid on the Louisiana bush tracks?
Calvin: Oh, I got a bunch of stories. I mean I would load races inside of the gate, and I was on the horse and I looked on the side, and they had a chicken tied on the other horse… I got to the gate sometimes … I mean we stayed in the gate for 45 minutes sometimes, you know, we were just running 36 feet you know, two jumps out the gate just trying to kill the other horse in the gate, you know, trying to not kill him, but just trying to beat him out … you know, get him upset and back and forth … I mean I could tell you all kind of stories. I mean I've seen gray horses they would paint black sometimes.
Ron: Sounds like a book. (From Mary) When’s the book going to come on Calvin Borel?
Calvin: I don’t know about that, sir.
Ron: You haven't signed any contracts with writers or agents yet?
Calvin: No, not really.
Ron: What about the movie?
Calvin: No, sir, not yet.
Ron: This is from Paul Senegal, Jr. – maybe you know him, I don’t know. “What is your favorite memory of Old Evangeline Downs?
Calvin: My favorite movie is Casey’s Shadow.
Ron: Casey’s Shadow. From Bob Reeves – “How did you get the nickname “Boo.”
Calvin: Because I was a boo-boo. J My mom and dad had me 12 years after my second brother – I mean my brother that comes before me. So I was a … she was 40-something years old when she had me, so that’s why they call me “Boo.”
Ron: Like a surprise.
Calvin: Yeah, a surprise.
Ron: Next question (From Omardakarai) – what dreams or goals do you have now that you’ve won the Derby twice and won the Oaks?
Calvin: Right now, my dream is just to stay healthy and get to my 5000 wins. That’s my next goal.
Ron: The 5000 win would be your next goal, and that’s, you know, a couple of hundred wins away?
Calvin: Yes, sir, I think I've got like 270 races to go.
Ron: What about Hall of Fame, is that a goal for you?
Calvin: I’d love to. You know, I mean … but it’s not a goal for me. It never was my goal. My next goal is to maybe get lucky and win another Derby and get up to win my 5000 career.
Ron: Next question (From Michael Hovarth) – I recall a story – hearing a story about you riding barrels around a barn which taught you how to ride the rail, but I can't remember that. Can you please relate that again.
Calvin: You know, when I first started riding, my brother, we had a bunch of scattered horses and I rode some horses, and I’d go around and my brother started putting cones around the shedrow, because I’d come back and walk them after they run… and he’d put them in the middle of the shedrow and I’d say what the hell you doing that for? He said “That’s how far you gone. You lose so much ground.” And I had to go all the way around the cones, so I realized that after that, I’m gonna start staying a little bit closer to the fence.
Ron: So really, the rail is the quickest way from start to finish.
Calvin: Not start to finish, but around the turn, I would say, yes, sir.
Ron: Next question – this is from Karen Arnold. “I am a jockey in training and want to know what it’s like to win the Kentucky Derby. My goal is to win the Derby.”
Calvin: You can't describe it. I mean it’s unbelievable. It’s emotional and you know, … I just wish my mom and dad was here to see what I accomplished in my career and that hurts me a lot. But I know they're watching with me or riding with me because it’s happening too easy.
Ron: The next question comes from another budding jockey, named Caitlin. “I’m waiting word from Chris McCarron about getting into the jockey school. I've wanted to be a jockey ever since I saw War Emblem and Espinoza go wire to wire in the 2002 Derby. Any advice about becoming a jockey?”
Calvin: Hard work. You’ve got to put hard work and have a [inaudible 19:08] to guide you like Chris McCarron to guide you. That’s why I think I've had success in my life because I had somebody to guide me since I was 12 years old. I see riders come along and make a lot of money when they're young and everything goes to hell, and you need a guide there, a guy like Chris McCarron to get you there.
Ron: (From Sky) Have you visited with Street Sense since he retired, and does he remember you?
Calvin: Oh yeah. I usually call him “Daddy Rabbit,” that’s his nickname – “Daddy Rabbit.” I go to Darley Farm and I’ll holler at him “Daddy Rabbit,” and his ears will perk up. He knows.
Ron: (From Shannon) Do you have a fan club? I live in the northwest and would like to keep tabs on what's new with you?
Calvin: Not officially, no.
Ron: But you do have a lot of fans.
Calvin: Oh I do have a lot of fans.
Ron: (From Christine P.) What is your favorite Cajun food?
Calvin: It used to be crawfish, but I can't eat that anymore. I started breaking out into hives. I like etouffee and boudin, cracklins
Ron: What do you do in your spare time, or do you have spare time?
Calvin: I don’t have much spare time, but I love to hunt and fish.
Ron: Do you hunt and fish around Kentucky, or do you go all over the country?
Calvin: No, I really think when I go to Hot Springs is the most time I get to hunt and fish.
Ron: Is that one reason that Hot Springs, let’s say rather than Fair Grounds is on your list of where you go every year?
Calvin: Yes, sir, it is. We usually just go to Hot Springs, you know, freshen up a little bit and get ready.
Ron: (From DeeDee) Why in the world, knowing you're riding propensity and success, do the other jockeys not keep an eye out for you?
Calvin: Well most of them, you know, you’ve got to concentrate on your own horse. Do you know what I mean? And some horses don’t like to be on the inside, some horses don’t like to be on the outside. And you know, when the horse runs up to you, they're usually running up on the outside and you know, they’ll try to make your horse go to them and to make your horse break, you know … it’s just a combination of things.
Ron: Our final question comes from Ruthie Roberts. “We are proud of you. When will you and Lisa marry?”
Calvin: Oh I don’t know, sir. We were supposed to get married five years ago, and just … as long as this keeps going on, I don’t know when we’re getting married.
Ron: So it’s just like riding a horse from far back, just be patient.
Calvin: Yes, sir. That’s the name of the game.
Ron: Listen, Calvin, like I said, we had hundreds of questions. I've narrowed it down to what were the most popular and tried to mix it up a little bit. We certainly appreciate your time and congratulations and good luck.
Calvin: Okay, sir. Thank you. Bye bye.