From outwardly appearances, Todd Pletcher and Calvin Borel could not be more different. Pletcher is Mr. Smooth in every way--hair always neatly in place, dressed perfectly in finely-tailored suits, a master communicator, and a million dollar smile. He is the personification of class.
Borel is as blue-collar as they come. A country boy through and through. Grew up in Louisiana Cajun country and never forgot his roots. A racetrack junkie who is as comfortable on the backside as he is in street clothes. If he owns a suit, it is only for appearances on David Letterman. His hair and smile? Well, I'll leave that one alone.
Borel is not a regular rider for Pletcher, but the two hooked up on Super Saver last November for the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at the recommendation of WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden, who thought Borel would be a perfect fit for the son of Maria's Mon. He could not have been more right.
On Saturday, Pletcher and Borel made history on Super Saver. It was an important victory for both trainer and jockey--for different reasons.
For Pletcher, he shed the title as "Best trainer to never win a Derby," and completed a résumé that had a glaring omission. Now, fairly or not, Pletcher will be looked upon in a whole different light. With a Derby win, his reputation has changed from a guy that couldn't win the big one to a guy who has done it all. Pletcher would probably never admit it, but he feels 1,000 pounds lighter today--not from a monkey jumping off his back, but a gorilla. He will enjoy his Derby victory, but it will come in time. There was too much relief yesterday to feel joy.
Borel had no such pressure going into Derby 136, having won two of the last three. Yesterday's win was all gravy. While the victory was not needed to complete his résumé, it did put him in an elite class as one of the best to ever get a leg up in America's greatest race. His status as a Churchill Downs master was solidified. He officially owns that place.
As different as Pletcher and Borel are in some ways, they are also very alike in others. Both have an impeccable work ethic. Both are the definition of professional. Both are humble, easy-going gentlemen. Now, they are forever linked in Derby history, an unlikely pair brought together by fate. Only time will tell how far into immortality this colt will take them.
Derby 136 was a good story all around. Not only for Pletcher and Borel, but for WinStar, a classy ownership group that has invested a lot of money into this sport. Bill Casner, Kenny Troutt, Doug Cauthen, Elliott Walden, and the whole WinStar crew are quality people. Hats off to them, they are deserving winners.
And now, onto the Preakness...