Carl Nafzger asked: “Calvin, do you like to ride races?” “Yes, you know I do,” answered Borel.
“Calvin, do you have fun riding races?” "Yes, boss, of course I do,” said the jock who never had ridden a Kentucky Derby winner.
“Then go out there, ride a race, have some fun, and win a race,” said Nafzger before giving Borel a leg up on Street Sense.
For Calvin Borel, who would become the only jockey to win not only that Derby, but two more in a span of three more years before, underscoring his Hall of Fame legacy aboard the great filly Rachel Alexandra, who vanquished male contemporaries in the Preakness and Haskell, and again beat males on a memorable Woodward afternoon at Saratoga Race Course, today was the culmination of a career the rider wished his late father and mother were around to see.
Along with equine greats Housebuster, Invasor and Lure, now Hall of Fame steeplechasers McDynamo and the legendary Tuscalee, and Pillars of the Turf August Belmont II and Paul Mellon, it was a fitting, emotional conclusion to the rich Racing Hall of Fame tradition.
Borel’s future still has a way to go—“I don’t know how long I’m going to keep on riding, I just love the game so much”—but it is on this day that all the Hall of Famers in the audience, as well as the vast gathering of fans, have a chance to fondly celebrate Thoroughbred Racing achievement. The traditional roll call of Hall of Famers featuring just a few of their career highlights is my favorite part each year:
First up there was, Chris McCarron, winner of 7,140 races, two Triple Crown races each, nine Breeders’ Cups, and as mentor of his Lexington-based riders’ school, teacher of graduates that have surpassed the 2,000 win mark.
And the rest of those that followed Nominating Committee Chairman Ed Bowen’s introductions in order:
Shug McGaughey, 1,774 winners and counting, four champions and training titles made.
Eddie Maple, with his back-to-back Travers victories, three upsets of Hall of Famer Forego with three different horses, among 4,398 career wins.
Johnny Velazquez, Saratoga’s all-time leading rider, third in purse earnings all-time and 11 Breeders’ Cups.
Wayne Lukas, innovator, trainer of trainers, winner of 4,677 races, 14 Triple Crown events, a record, 19 Breeders’ Cups, a record, 16 training titles and developer of 24 champions: Mind-boggling.
Jerry Bailey, Eclipse Award jockey all-time leader with seven, six Triple Crown race wins, 15 Breeders’ Cup, surpassed by Velazquez this year as Saratoga’s all-time leader.
Nafzger, the first and only trainer to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby with the same horse, Street Sense.
Nick Zito, with his five Triple Crown race wins, two Derbies, and the developer of three champions.
Manuel Ycaza, four-time leading rider at Saratoga and partner of Filly Triple Crown winner Dark Mirage.
Jack Van Berg, who won the Preakness twice, the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic among 6,417 winners, sixth all-time, the first to reach the 5,000 win plateau.
Bill Boland, who won the Kentucky Derby and Oaks in the same year and, as a 16-year-old apprentice, was the youngest jockey to win the Derby.
Jonathan Sheppard, one of two trainers to saddle champions over jumps and on the flat, 27 times leading money-earning steeplechase trainer and who has won a race at Saratoga for 45 consecutive years: Only needs 11 to catch DiMaggio.
Jose Santos, winner of seven Breeders’ Cups, each Triple Crown event, broke Angel Cordero’s Saratoga riding title streak at 11, and a laudable 15.7% career win rate for his 4,083 career victories.
Edgar Prado, 10 New York riding titles, three at Saratoga, partner of Derby winning Barbaro among 6,667 career wins, ninth all-time.
Bill Mott, developer of six champions, winner of 16 straight races with Cigar, 19 New York training titles, nine at Saratoga, saddled Classic and Ladies Classic winners in the same year and currently fourth in career earnings all-time.
Randy Romero, a winner of riding titles at 10 different tracks, the partner of Go for Wand, and engineered Personal Ensign’s undefeated career. Will anyone ever forget the 1988 Distaff?
Janet Elliott, second woman to be inducted into Hall of Fame (Julie Krone), the first trainer, third in all-time steeplechase earnings and winner of the prestigious Colonial Cup five times.
And then there was a special video presentation by Breeders’ Cup co-author John Nerud, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year.
The only thing missing were acknowledgments to “the Chief,” Allen Jerkens, who could not attend, and Thomas (T.J.) Kelly, who passed away this year.
Today at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion, Borel, along with sprinting win machine Housebuster, dual Breeders’ Cup winning turf speedster Lure, 2006 Horse of the Year and 2005 Uruguayan Triple Crown winner Invasor.
Two ‘chasers were inducted; McDynamo and Tuscalee, and was very happy to be reminded of the achievements of the latter.
Tuscalee won 39 of 89 career starts, his final victory at age 12, won a record 10 races in a single season and carried a staggering 167 pounds to victory. But his best stat is never to have fallen in all 89 trips to the post.
Two Pillars of the Turf, a new and long overdue honor, was awarded August Belmont II who opened Belmont Park, co-founded the Jockey Club and bred the storied Man o’ War among other laudable achievements.
Paul Mellon, philanthropist extraordinaire, was represented by over 1,000 stakes winners as the master of Rokeby Stable and the only person to campaign winners of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Epsom Derby and Kentucky Derby.
Exemplary achievement, the best of the best, each and every one.