Having made his movie debut earlier this year portraying himself, Calvin Borel already has another one in mind.
How does this sound?
A Hall of Fame jockey hooks up with his fellow colorful Louisianan, who happens to be an old buddy with a modest stable. Together they make Kentucky Derby history.
You could call it “The Cajun and the Cowboy.”
“Sounds pretty good to me,” said Borel, the Lafayette native who will be riding Ride on Curlin for Winnsboro’s “Bronco Billy” Gowan on Saturday. “It sure does.”
It especially sounds good to Gowan, who after 20 years as a trainer finally has a horse in the Derby.
“Calvin needs his fourth (Derby title) and I need my first,” said Gowan, who has only two other horses running during the current meet at Churchill Downs. “If they made a movie out of it, I know I’d want to go to see it.”
Borel does have three Derby titles, the middle one coming in 2009 aboard Mine That Bird, the 50-1 underdog whose story was turned into a film of the same name featuring Borel as, well, Calvin Borel.
Given a limited release in March, 50-1 quickly disappeared from the theaters.
But one of the reviews, while panning the move in general stated, “At first it seems like a chancy move to cast an amateur in the role, but Borel more than makes up for his lack of smooth acting skills in those moments in which he relives that day in May, 2009. The man’s genuine happiness and humble joy in the winner’s circle will bring tears to your eyes.”
To Borel, it wasn’t that hard.
“It was a great experience and a lot of fun,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d want to play somebody else though.”
Borel said he would leave that to fellow Hall of Famer Gary Stevens who played the legendary George Woolf in Seabiscuit and then retired from racing, only to come back last year to win the Preakness aboard Oxbow.
Stevens, still active at 51, will be riding Candy Boy on Saturday.
At 48, Borel isn’t contemplating retiring just yet.
But he’s definitely choosing his spots more, as someone of his accomplishments (5,057 victories, $122.9 million in earnings) is entitled to.
Borel had 347 starts in 2013, down from 610 in 2012, although that was in part because he spent five weeks recovering from a spill at Keeneland in October. With 115 starts in 2014, he’ll probably wind up with fewer than last year.
“I don’t ride in eight or nine races a day anymore,” said Borel, who will be riding Sugar Shock in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.
“But it doesn’t matter to me what kind of horse it is and if I was afraid of getting hurt again, I wouldn’t be here.
“I love it because I love being out here with the horses. As long as I feel that way, I’m not going to retire.”
But even Hall of Famers (Borel was inducted last year) don’t always get their pick of Derby horses.
When a couple of early contenders Borel had had his eye on didn’t work out, he actually approached Gowan about Ride on Curlin who had finished second in the Arkansas Derby with Jon Court aboard.
“You never know how it’s going to pan out because it takes such a long time to get here,” said Borel, who rode Ride on Curlin to his two victories in nine starts, the last an allowance race at Oaklawn on Jan. 14. “I know one thing — this colt has never done as good as he’s doing now.
“He’s peaking at the right time.”
And, Gowan pointed out, he’s got the ideal rider in Borel, whose mastery of getting inside position has earned him the nickname “Bo-Rail.”
“Jon didn’t do anything wrong in the last race,” Gowan said. “But Calvin has always been my man.
“I didn’t know if he would be available or not, but he called me right after the Arkansas Derby and I told him then I wanted to go with him.”
Ride on Curlin, the son of all-time money winner Curlin, is a co-fifth choice in the morning line at 15-1 despite never having won a stakes race. Having Borel as his rider probably helps elevate Ride on Curlin’s stature
“He’s a tough, sound horse,” Gowan said. “When he didn’t win, there were excuses.
“With Calvin riding him, he’s got a chance. Getting here has always been my goal, and I’ve got the perfect guy who can give my horse the perfect ride.”
And if the desire to win burns hot for a first-timer like Gowan, it’s just as strong for Borel, who will be in his 14th Kentucky Derby.
Last year, he was third aboard Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary.
“Once you win the Derby, it picks your head up and you want to keep riding a little bit longer,” he said. “Then when you’re back in the Derby, people see you’re not finished yet. All it takes is one good horse to take you all the way. This one’s in good shape, he’s ready to run and all I have to have fun and let the race unfold.”
If that happens, can be it long before Hollywood’s calling again?