Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel has retired, effectively immediately, his agent, Larry Melancon, confirmed Wednesday morning at Oaklawn.
Borel, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001, couldn’t be reached for comment and no reason was given for the retirement. He was named on seven horses the next three racing days at Oaklawn and was scheduled to work horses Wednesday morning, including Cosmic Evolution for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9.
Melancon said Borel, 50, informed him Tuesday afternoon that he was retiring. The two talked again about 40 minutes before the track opened Wednesday morning, Melancon said, and nothing had changed.
“That’s all I know,” said Melancon, who had Borel’s book since late August.
Jerry Hissam of Hot Springs, Borel’s close friend and longtime agent, was also unable to shed any light on the jockey’s abrupt retirement.
“I spoke with him and he said it was time,” Hissam said. “It was just time.”
Hissam had represented Borel for most of the last 25 years after taking the jockey’s book at the 1991 Oaklawn meeting.
According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Borel retires with 5,146 career victories – 27th-highest total in North American history – and purse earnings of $127,087,376. He rode his first winner in 1983.
A native of St. Martinville, La., Borel earned the nickname “Bo-Rail” for his daring ground-saving rides, a style that carried him to an unprecedented three Kentucky Derby victories in four years (2007, 2009 and 2010).
Borel also won the Preakness aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2013.
Borel enjoyed immense success at Oaklawn, recording his 3,000th, 4,000th and 5,000th career victories in Hot Springs. He became the 26th jockey in North American history to reach 5,000 victories March 7, 2013.
Borel ended Pat Day’s 12-year run as Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and captured his second title in 2001.
He began riding regularly at Oaklawn in 1990 and recorded 947 victories in Hot Springs, including 51 in stakes. The Hall of Famer won all five of Oaklawn’s major Racing Festival of the South events at least once, including the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1993 aboard 108-1 long shot Rockamundo.
“It was just one amazing God-given ride,” Hissam said.
Hissam retired before the 2016 Oaklawn meeting and now works in customer service at the track.
Borel’s 50th and 51st Oaklawn stakes victories came aboard the popular sprinter Ivan Fallunovalot in consecutive runnings (2015 and 2016) of the $100,000 King Cotton for trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs. He also rode Ivan Fallunovalot to a ninth-place finish in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
“His professional input and feedback on a horse has been invaluable,” said Howard’s wife/assistant, Kathy. “He drove over from Louisville to Keeneland and galloped Ivan for the Breeders’ Cup. How strong is that? He’s been so good to us.”
The Howards said Borel’s loyalty extended off the track.
“We consider him a friend, personally and professionally,” Kathy Howard said.
In what would be his final career mount, Borel finished fourth aboard the Tom Howard-trained Mud Light in Saturday’s $100,000 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn. His final career victory came aboard Thrylos March 18 at Oaklawn for trainer Lon Wiggins, who also has Cosmic Evolution.
Borel won the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) in 2009 aboard Rachel Alexandra for Wiggins’ father, retired trainer Hal Wiggins.
He had seven victories at this year’s Oaklawn meeting.
Back to Work
Dazzling Gem returned to the track Wednesday morning at Oaklawn, but trainer Brad Cox said he has no idea where the lightly raced 3-year-old will surface next.
Dazzling Gem, in just his third career start, finished third in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) Saturday at Fair Grounds, earning 20 points toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Cox said Wednesday morning that Dazzling Gem is under consideration for five upcoming stakes races, including the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn. Another option, Cox said, is training up to the May 7 Kentucky Derby, gambling the Misremembered colt has enough points to secure a spot in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
“Go back to the same old line,” Cox said. “We’ll let the horse tell us. It’s kind of like one minute, you’re like, ‘You know, maybe we ought to just run in the Derby.’ Another minute, it’s, ‘We have to earn our way into the Derby.’ The thing is just going to be how he moves forward.”
Cox said next-race plans are more complicated because Dazzling Gem will likely be a Kentucky Derby bubble horse, if he doesn’t run in another points race. If more than 20 horses enter the Kentucky Derby, starting preference is based on points earned in designated races like the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby.
Dazzling Gem has 20 points to rank 17th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Arkansas Derby offers 170 points to the top four finishers, including 100 to the winner.
Cox said Dazzling Gem is also a candidate for the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn, $150,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) April 16 at Keeneland and $250,000 Pat Day Mile (G3) May 7 at Churchill Downs. The Lexington offers 17 points to the top four finishers, including 10 to the winner.
Cox said the Lexington and Northern Spur are attractive because they’re 1 1/16 miles, a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby.
After winning his first two career starts earlier in the Oaklawn meeting, Dazzling Gem was scheduled to run in the track’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19, but missed the race because of a foot abscess. Dazzling Gem was beaten 5 ¾ lengths in the Louisiana Derby.
“I was proud of him,” Cox said. “He battled on. We’ll just see if he can move forward. Obviously if we’re thinking Kentucky Derby, he’s got to move forward. He’s got to move forward, really, with all these spots we’re talking about.
Dazzling Gem, who returned to Oaklawn Monday, races for prominent Arkansas automobile dealer Steve Landers. Landers is Oaklawn’s second-leading owner this year with eight victories.
Cox, who turned 36 Wednesday, has 19 victories to rank fourth in the Oaklawn trainer standings.
Trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs said Tisdale is scheduled to make his next start April 16. Moquett just isn’t sure if it will be in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) or $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn or the $150,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Tisdale remained unbeaten around two turns with a 2 ½-length first-level allowance/optional claiming victory Saturday at Oaklawn under Ricardo Santana Jr.
“Good horse,” Moquett said. “Maturing and coming into his own at the right time. We’re going to nominate him to a bunch of stuff and pick a spot.”
Tisdale ran second in his Jan. 17 3-year-old debut before breaking his maiden in his Feb. 6 two-turn debut. Both races were at Oaklawn. In Saturday’s race, Tisdale sat just off the pace before taking command turning for home and completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.35 over a fast track.
“The main thing is he did it within himself,” Moquett said. “The jock rode very efficient and smart. He didn’t have to beat him and ask a lot to get there.”
Moquett also co-owns and trains Whitmore, who is ticketed to run in the Arkansas Derby.
Tisdale races for Harlow Stables LLC (Eric Johnson) and is named for the late Oklahoma basketball great Wayman Tisdale.
American Pioneer worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 over a fast track Wednesday morning at Oaklawn for trainer Wayne Catalano. American Pioneer is under consideration for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn, Catalano said. … Cosmic Evolution breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 Wednesday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9 at Oaklawn. Trainer Lon Wiggins said he has yet to confirm a jockey for the Fantasy following the retirement of Calvin Borel, Cosmic Evolution’s regular rider. … TrainerJinks Fires of Hot Springs said Will Munnings will “probably” make his next start in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 15 at Oaklawn. Will Munnings won Saturday’s $100,000 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn.
Source: Oaklawn Park