THW: Born To Ride

THE HOARSE WHISPERER By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  5 May 2010, Wednesday

Born to Ride

“I was born to ride, baby.”

In such simple terms did jockey Calvin Borel describe to a TV interviewer how he guided Super Saver to victory in this year’s Kentucky Derby, held last Saturday at Churchill Downs in front of 155,804 spectators.

Borel’s achievements in the Derby so far are among the most momentous in the sport. He won the race twice before – with Street Sense in 2007 and Mine that Bird last year. This makes his present victory his third Derby win in only four years.

Mine That Bird was sent off as a 50-1 longshot and ran in last position for most of the race on a muddy track, in conditions similar to this year. Just as he did with Street Sense, Borel guided Mine That Bird along the rail to win pulling away by several lengths.

However, this year’s edition of the Derby, first leg of the US Triple Crown, was marred by rain. The track was sloppy, though still firm underneath the mud. In the morning line, Super Saver was a longshot, but by the time the race ran, was second favorite to Lookin at Lucky. Fans reckoned on Super Saver’s familiarity with the track, reputation as a “mudder” (ability to run on a wet or sloppy track), and Borel’s near-magical skills.

He had won a race in the undercard the same day as the Derby, steering Zimmer beside the rail, despite four other horses winning by going along the center or outside of the track on the stretch, leading many to assume a track bias.

Again, “Bo-rail” waved his magic whip, guided Super Saver fence-side under heavy whipping in the final stages of the one-and-a-half mile race (about 2,400 meters), and beat Ice Box to the finish line by a length and a half, relegating Paddy O’Prado to third.

Borel guides Super Saver along the rail. (AP)

Make Music For Me came in fourth. Lookin at Lucky, the favorite, hampered by a poor post position, placed sixth. Another early favorite, Sidney’s Candy, came in fourth to last in a field of twenty. Total time for the race was 2:04.45.

It was trainer Todd Pletcher’s first Derby win in 28 starts. The trainer praised his jockey, saying, “Calvin Borel is a great rider anywhere he goes, but at Churchill Downs he’s even five lengths better.” Another entry of Pletcher’s, Eskendereya, was expected to be the race’s heavy favorite but was scratched before the race due to injury.

It’s three Derbies in four years for Calvin “Bo-rail”. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Asked about his penchant for running by the rail, Borel shrugged. “I was just taught it’s the shortest way around.”

Winstar Farms, owner of Super Saver, have decided to run their talented colt in the May 15 Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

In the Kentucky Oaks for fillies, which ran last Friday, Rafael Bejarano steered favorite Blind Luck to a photo finish over Evening Jewel. Blind Luck’s trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer had opted not to run his filly in the more competitive Derby – a wise choice for his filly, who won by a slim nostril. She covered the mile-and-an-eighth (1,800 meters) race in 1:50.70.

It’s Rafael Bejerano and Blind Luck at the Oaks! (Matt Slocum/AP)

These results excite local racing fans even as the sport here enters its own Triple Crown season. The first leg, sponsored by the Philippine Racing Commission, is set for Sunday, May 9, at Santa Ana Park.

Nine entries are entered in the mile race for elite 3YO – colts Brother Barack, Consolidator, Righthererightnow, Scotland Yard, Shining Armour, Thoti’s Best, and Yes Pogi, all carrying 54 kgs.; and fillies Kristal’s Beauty and Well Well Well, to carry 52 kgs.

The race is considered wide-open, with Consolidator having an edge after winning a magnificent tuneup run two weeks ago by 13 lengths. Watch out for Yes Pogi and Well Well Well to shine. Righthererightnow and Scotland Yard may place.

Just like their American counterparts, Philippine jockeys are born to ride. But who among them will emerge a victor like Calvin Borel? We’ll be finding out the answer to that in just a few more days. *** (Twitter: @gogirlracing)

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