It’ll be a long road back, but Calvin Borel said he thinks he has just the horse to get him there.
Borel — the three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey from St. Martin Parish — may have plenty of accomplishments to look back on during his illustrious career, but his performance in last year’s Kentucky Derby still haunts him to this day.
“It was a rough day,” Borel said. “You always want to do your best and try to find ways to put the horse in the best position to win. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that day.”
Riding the Billy Gowan-trained Ride on Curlin, Borel struggled to find a path to the front of the pack and finished in seventh place. After the race, Gowan lit into Borel for his performance and his disappointment with how Ride on Curlin, Gowan’s first Derby qualifier, finished.
“It was a pretty bad ride in my opinion,” he said of the Hall of Fame jockey. “A terrible ride.”
That was 2014.
This is 2015 and Borel gets an early ride among his possible Derby mount for this year Saturday aboard Another Lemon Drop in the $200,000 Grade II Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
A field of a 11 is set for the race, which awards qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby.
Borel sees the Lecomte Stakes as his first step in a long journey to making up for his performance in last year’s Derby.
Another Lemon Drop, is coming off a five-length victory on Dec. 19 in a one-mile allowance field. Borel said he knew the colt had a bright future from the first time he saw him.
“I got a chance to ride him at Churchill, it was his first time on dirt, and I really got to know the colt that day,” Borel said. “His gallop-out is incredible, and when I got back I told the owners and the trainers that I would like to ride this colt.
“That first time I rode him I said to myself we might have something special here.”
Phillip Bauer, Another Lemon Drop’s trainer, said once Borel agreed to participate in the Lecomte, it was a no-brainer.
“Calvin rode him before, so we knew he was familiar with him,” Bauer said. “Calvin said he really liked the horse and he wanted to go forward, so we went from there.”
One obstacle standing in the way of Borel and Another Lemon Drop’s quest is the deep field of accomplished horses and jockeys that will be littered throughout the field for Saturday’s race.
The 11-horse field boasts winners from races across the country, another Hall of Fame jockey (Mike Smith, who will be riding Savoy Stomp) and a two-time Lecomte-winning trainer (Neil Howard, who will be training Eagle).
“The field of horses and trainers in this race will be really impressive,” Bauer said. “We just have to focus on preparing Lemon Drop for Saturday and putting him in the best position to win. We respect everybody that’s going to be lining up that day, but we believe we have as good a chance as anybody.”
Borel said it’s hard to tell what a horse will do until race day, but he has the utmost faith that Another Lemon Drop will be up to the challenge.
“How good will he be? We aren’t quite sure yet,” Borel said. “He’ll have to step up to the plate. If he’s as good as I think he is, I think he can step up to those horses.”
And he holds nothing against Gowan, with whom he has mended their relationship.
“Billy wasn’t happy with how the race ended, and neither was I,” Borel said. “That race will definitely be on my mind as we go forward.”