Note: This story appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Evansville Living.
When 2009’s Kentucky Derby began, local racing fans watched with bated breath: Longtime Ellis Park jockey and local favorite Calvin Borel, a Louisiana native, was racing for his second Derby win. Borel won this year’s race riding Mine That Bird; he won his first derby in 2007 riding Street Sense.
From the first quarter-mile in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, I had so much confidence. Street Sense was just a natural from day one. I always said he’d win the Derby. He was so much talent, everything I needed to get me there. It was unbelievable. You just don’t find those kinds of horses, you know? With Mine That Bird, it was a big accomplishment, but it was very surprising. I’d only been on him a couple of times, and I’d been on Street Sense all his life.
During the Derby, you mostly focus on yourself and enjoy the race, but you also focus on the horses that you think you have to beat in the race, make sure they’re where they should be.
It’s every jockey’s dream to ride in the Kentucky Derby, much less win it. It’s the best feeling in the world. When you stand up, it’s like the ground’s shaking. You’re just so numb. My mom and dad have passed away, and I thought about them first — I wish they could see what I’ve accomplished in my life. But then you look back and go, “I worked so hard to get here, and I finally got here.”