Reading other blogs, sites, and articles is a big part of a horseplayer’s world. We used to have books, or go to the library and dig up info. But, now we have it all at a fingertip. I think after reading this, you will find some similar things about three very different riders.
Arcaro is a name that you would put up there with: Ruth, DiMaggio, Farve, Marino, Walton, Jabbar, Bird, Woods, Ashe, Brown, Sampras, and a multitude of others. It is a name you would recognize in the world of racing. In our sport, he is an icon.
In 1938, he won his first Derby aboard Lawrin. He was most respected, and most hated according to a 1948 cover story in Time Magazine. He looked thin with toothpick legs. He weighed 112 lbs, and in the jockey’s room, he was the cock of the walk. He loved to read, and could be as articulate as a gentleman. He spoke two languages proficiently: English, and profanity… He was a gent until you got on his bad side. Then it would all turn, and the nice fellow who was reading a classic, could have you in a corner throwing down a fit. He is a part of an elite fraternity. He owns five Derby wins to his name. Lawrin – 1938, Whirlaway – 1941, Hoop Jr. – 1945, Citation – 1948, and Hill Gail – 1952. He is part of a two man fraternity that owns five wins each.
In a game that belongs to the little man, Bill Hartack was known as the biggest shrimp on the track. He had the hands of a master craftsman, and they were extremely sensitive. He had an uncanny communication with the horse, and this is the difference between the good and the great. Hartack weighed 111 lbs, and had the swagger of man much bigger. He was known to get the most out of every mount. He would not win every time, but it was not for a lack of trying. It was ten years after Arcaro made his way onto the cover of Time Magazine, and in 1958, he was the man. Not always the favorite guy in the room, but the one you would plunk down your two bucks. Iron Leige – 1957, Venetian Way – 1960, Decidely – 1962, Northern Dancer – 1964, and Majestic Prince – 1969. He didn’t care what you thought of him. He just got the job done.
He has the idea. He has the finesse of a master, and the fearlessness of a bull fighter. He glides along “the short way home” with the move of a ballet dancer. He keeps horses so close to the rail, that they actually relax for him. For many, they get nervous and rushed and then comes the trouble. For Calvin Borel, it is a natural way that his brother Cecil taught him, even before he took to the saddle at age seven. He is a master.
No jockey in history has ever won three out of four Derbies. The runners that he guided home were far from easy selections, and he became the first rider to win back-to-back Derbies since Eddie Delahoussaye in 1982.
Borel belongs to a club of great riders who own three wins: Issac Murphy, Earle Sande, Angel Cordero, Gary Stevens and Kent Desormeaux. Willie Shoemaker has four wins to his record, and his last came in 1986 aboard Ferdinand. Borel is a part of a select fraternity.
He has always had a quiet confidence, but he is starting to come out of his shell with that swagger of the gents mentioned above. It is his time, and no matter what, he will be a force to be reckoned with. He is two Derbies shy of joining the other two men, but I believe it is a matter of time. I just hope the racing gods see fit to allow him to stick around.
Calvin is a great ambassador for racing. If you have ever rooted for the common guy to win, or if you like the underdog to pull off the upset, he is your man. The only drawback is that he is less and less an underdog. Borel’s career is moving. He steps up into the irons this weekend for the second jewel of the Triple Crown. It was just last year, he became the first rider to jump off of the Derby winner to ride another in the Preakness. Not only was it another, it was a filly… If you have ever wanted an every day guy to go all the way, it is now. Calvin Borel is the man for the job. He can set history, and make it into the pantheon of the great ones. It is just a matter of time, and you can bet he will be taking the short way home along the rail.