January 31, 2010

Questions for Calvin

Dinner at the White House with Queen Elizabeth, appearances on the Today Show, the Jay Leno Show, and the David Letterman Show, two wins and a third in the last three runnings of the Kentucky Derby. He has ridden the Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, in each of her last nine victories. Calvin Borel is undoubtedly the most popular jockey in America. Today he is with Zipse at the Track.

ZATT- With the year you had in 2009, would you call it the most satisfying one in your career?

CB - Yes 2009 was a very satisfying year to say the least. By far my best year to date, however, in terms of my career on the whole, I think the most satisfying period of time for me was in 2006 when Mr. Carl Nafzger told me that he and Mr. Tafel had decided that I would be Street Sense's jockey. Win lose or draw they would not take me off. they trusted me with a horse that had the potential to take them to the Derby, and I, at that time, was not a hall of fame rider, and there were several riding at the time who could have easily replaced me. Never won a classic, never hit the board in the Derby, so they trusted me, and that was satisfying. The moment you realize every second of hard work is about to pay off, because I knew Street could win the Derby. That was a very satisfying moment for me, and yes, this year has been incredible, but I look back to one decision made by two men that changed my life forever and I have to be so thankful for their trust in me that opened the door for so many more incredible moments in my career to happen.

ZATT- Leparoux, Dominguez, and Gomez all had great years, but many people were very disappointed that you were not one of the Eclipse finalists, what are your feelings?

CB - No, to be honest, I'm not disappointed. An Eclipse Award would have been a nice acknowledgment by the turf writers for a year that called for me to make many tough decisions. It was a year that saw in the first time in history, a rider give up his mount in the Derby in favor of another horse in the Preakness. There was a lot of pressure there, to give up your shot at a Triple Crown because you believe so whole heartedly in your filly. I ride everyday with Julien and I know what an amazing rider he is…he reminds me frequently throughout the meet at Churchill. Garrett and I have been friends for a long time and I can tell you he is one of the best our sport has ever seen. And anyone who can break records like Ramon did this year on a circuit as tough as New York gets respect from me any day of the week. So yes, it would have been nice, but I will happily stand behind these three anytime. I have my Derby trophies, the trust of the man who owns the best horse in the world, and my health I can't ask for much else.

ZATT - Speaking of the Eclipse Awards, did you expect Rachel to win the Horse of the Year?

CB - Yes, I did. Both are tremendous race mares, and I could sit here and go over all of the various reasons why Rachel was the logical choice, but we've been there and done that and we've moved on. There is no excuse for negativity or animosity in discussing these horses campaigns. This has been so good for racing, and if we don't recognize that and use it to promote racing we will lose a chance to bring racing back to center stage where it belongs.

ZATT- What do you think sets Rachel Alexandra apart from other horses you have ridden?

CB - Rachel has a huge stride. Plain and simple. She has so much power in her hindquarters she is able to jump about 27 feet in one stride. As she takes one stride, horses on her side are talking two, or one and a half. To cover this ground so effortlessly is what makes her what she is. She knows what her job is, too. She is very smart and competitive. She would dig down so deep before she would ever let a other horse pass her. She is versatile as well, she does not need the lead but will give it to you if you want it, she isn't picky. She knows where the finish line is. She doesn’t fight for the lead all the way around like some horses with natural speed do. But, all things considered, it's her stride that makes her what she is.

ZATT - Who do you consider to be the best horse you have ridden, other than Rachel?

CB - I've ridden a lot of nice horses, many, many who have never made it to the races or never had a chance to show what they were. When I think of Rachel there's one horse in particular that reminds me of her, a mare called Halo America. I rode her in the late nineties for Bobby Barnett. She had a lot of natural speed, and a nice long stride, and when those gates would break, it would be hell trying to get past her. She was always so game, she would get right on top of the rail and just cruise... I've never ridden a horse that comes close to Rachel in terms of ability, but Halo was fun to ride, very game, and she loved her job. Street Sense was completely different in running style but he had an acceleration that was unreal, always felt like I was being shot out of a cannon, and Street was a very smart horse, knew right were the finish line was. Those were my two favorites.

ZATT - Are you looking forward to the day that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta face off on the track?

CB - I am looking forward to it. It will be so good for the sport, and I’m happy the Mosses decided to bring Big Z back for 2010. It's all very, very exciting!

ZATT - What do you think will be the result of that match up?

CB - Well I can tell you this, it will be very exciting, and I surely don't underestimate Big Z, that's for sure. However, I will be as confident in Rachel as I always have been, and ride her to win.

ZATT - Naysayers seem to think that Rachel will have a hard time getting the ten furlongs of the Breeders‘ Cup Classic, does this worry you at all?

CB - The Classic distance won't be a problem for Rachel, especially over Churchill Downs surface that she loves so much. I don't see it being a problem at all.

ZATT - Rachel did not run last year’s Classic because it was on a synthetic surface, was this a big disappointment for you?

CB - No I am not. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Jackson. It was his decision to make, he owns the horse, and we should respect that. I feel like he designed a campaign for her to showcase her talent and ability and it resulted in Rachel making history at America's most prestigious race meeting. Mr. Jackson did what he thought best for his horse and I am happy with how it turned out.

ZATT - Do you have a strong preference for riding over dirt, turf, or synthetics?

CB - I am not a fan of synthetic surfaces. I have to be honest, and I always will be when asked about racing surfaces. There's no reason to try to hide behind some pc answer to the question. I never have liked them.

ZATT - I know you have ridden several possible Derby horses for this year, but I wanted to ask you specifically about Dryfly, who looked good recently winning the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, does he have you excited as a potential Derby horse?

CB - Dryfly is a very nice colt. I have great hopes for him, but only time will tell, as it does with most racehorses.

ZATT - OK, Calvin, one more question…How is married life treating you?

CB - Married life is fantastic…thanks!


LDP said...

Calvin seems like such a great guy. If you remember the conversation you and I were having yesterday about having people in the sport who are not secretive, have an opinion, yet still remain classy...Well Borel is it. What a great job with the interveiw Brian and Thanks Mr. Borel for coming on!

Sarah Grice said...

Oh, I loved this! What a kind, down-to-earth guy Calvin seems to be. I admire his honesty and his willingness to give credit where credit is due. I can't wait to see what happens in 2010!

Sharon said...

The first time I started following horseracing was in the spring of 2008, and Denis of Cork was my favorite all the way. I've been a big fan of Calvin ever since then - he's the best!

Sarah Grice said...

btw, does anybody know how calvin and lisa met? what a cute couple!

Anonymous said...

the salt of the earth,classy, modest, humble and a wealth of applicable knowledge in the offering of which we all benefit immensely....ply your trade baby one thing is true you take out what you put in and CAL BABY YOU HAVE CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH ALREADY BUT THE BEST IS YET TO COME.....2010 MAKE IT HAPPEN !....as for the ZIPSTER ,WHAT CAN I SAY BABY THAT HAS NOT BEEN ALREADY SAID....IT ONLY GETS BETTER........

Steve Munday said...

Great interview Brian!

Calvin really is a straight shooter and his answers were very insightful. People who've followed the KY circuit know how great he's been in his career. Hopefully his success on Street Sense, MTB, and RA will eventually land him in the HoF.

Brian Zipse said...

I am glad that who Calvin is, comes through in this piece. He deserves everything good that comes his way...Hall of Fame? I think so. And Sarah, I do not know that answer, but we can find out...

Anonymous said...

Please tell me he has bought some teeth after all those wins last year on Rachel.

mark toothaker said...

Great job, Calvin is as down to earth as they come. Hope he has another great year.

Jennifer Cook said...

Great interview, Brian. And a kicker ending! You're your own good editor. I made my husband read this. He was one of those people who declared the K. Derby a crapshoot and bet on Calvin... We both really enjoyed it. Thanks again.

SaratogaSpa said...

nice interview...love how it comes across in Calvin's words that he believes Rachel was the logical horse of the year choice

mvlach77 said...

Great interview. I loved the part where Calvin discusses Rachel's huge strides. That was specific info I had not heard before.

Anonymous said...

This is great, nice job interviewing! My vote would have gone to Calvin for Eclipe Award jockey. After winning the the Oaks, Derby (what a double!)and Preakness (not to mention a slew of others) and bringing some much needed popularity to the cameras he deserved to win.

Anonymous said...

I like Calvin, but is this really him answering these questions? Bless his heart, but this article depicts him with way better grammar and syntax than I've ever heard from him.
Just saying.