by J. Mesa
I am about the most fair-weather horse racing fan out there. I usually only pay attention to racing when there is a possibility of a Triple Crown winner. But to be honest, I am really excited for the 141st running of the Belmont.
Sure, a Triple Crown winning horse would be a great feat and would give the industry a shot in the arm that it so desperately needs, but just beneath the surface of this week’s Belmont is a great jockey story that has got my interest.
Jockey Calvin Borel has already etched his name in horse racing history and lore by becoming the first rider to win both the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness Stakes on two different horses. Now Borel turns his sights on something more astounding – winning the Triple Crown on two different horses. He needs just one more No. 1 finish to complete the “Calvin Crown.”
Can Borel rise to the occasion and make the impossible, possible one more time? Or will he succumb to the pressure and the field of hungry riders and runners, and fall just short (and no, that’s not a jockey joke)?
Borel’s ascent to the upper echelon of the horse racing industry was as improbable as “Mine That Bird’s” 50-1 stunner at this year’s Kentucky Derby.
Riding and running races since before he was 10-years-old, Borel dropped out of school in the eighth grade to pursue his dream of joining horse racing’s immortals. Now at 43-years-old, he’s seen it all and just about done it all.
If someone were to handicap Borel’s journey to the threshold of immortality, the odds may be in the neighborhood of 999 million to one. But Borel has overcome so much in his ascent that it would be foolish to count this guy out.
As a youngster, Borel was given the nickname “Boo-boo” in reference to the fact that he came along long after his next youngest sibling, boy, talk about knowing your place!
Things got worse for Borel when in 2006 he shattered his wrist on Thanksgiving Day – putting his career in jeopardy. At the time of the injury, he was already 40-years-old and long past what most would consider his “prime” for racing greatness.
Overcoming perhaps his greatest obstacle, Borel battled and succeeded over the forced vomiting that jocks sometimes use to keep their weight down, called “flipping” in jockey circles. From all this he was able to rise to the occasion and become a one of racing’s all-time best.
So as he mounts the morning-line favorite for the Belmont, in a sense Borel has already won. As for those 999 million to one odds, he would probably meet them head-on like he has done time and time again throughout his life with an “aw shucks” mentality, grin and reply as he has done many times before: “Boo might not be too smart, but he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to horses.”
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