Hall Of Fame Jockey Calvin Borel Retires

by | 03.30.2016 | 2:27pm
Lisa and Calvin Borel with Carl Nafzger at the 2013 Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel has retired, effectively immediately, his agent, Larry Melancon, confirmed Wednesday morning at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Borel, Oaklawn's leading rider in 1995 and 2001, couldn't be reached for comment and no reason was given for the retirement. He was named on seven horses the next three racing days at Oaklawn and was scheduled to work horses Wednesday morning, including Cosmic Evolution for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9.

Melancon said Borel, 50, informed him Tuesday afternoon that he was retiring. The two talked again about 40 minutes before the track opened Wednesday morning, Melancon said, and nothing had changed.

“That's all I know,” said Melancon, who had Borel's book since late August.

Jerry Hissam of Hot Springs, Borel's close friend and longtime agent, was also unable to shed any light on the jockey's abrupt retirement.

“I spoke with him and he said it was time,” Hissam said. “It was just time.”

Hissam had represented Borel for most of the last 25 years after taking the jockey's book at the 1991 Oaklawn meeting.

According to Equibase, racing's official data gathering organization, Borel retires with 5,146 career victories – 27th-highest total in North American history – and purse earnings of $127,087,376. He rode his first winner in 1983.

Born Nov. 7, 1966, in St. Martinville, La., Borel earned the nickname “Bo-Rail” for his daring ground-saving rides, a style that carried him to an unprecedented three Kentucky Derby victories in four years (Street Sense in  2007, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010).

Borel also won the Preakness aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2013.

Borel enjoyed immense success at Oaklawn, recording his 3,000th, 4,000th and 5,000th career victories in Hot Springs. He became the 26th jockey in North American history to reach 5,000 victories March 7, 2013.

Borel ended Pat Day's 12-year run as Oaklawn's leading rider in 1995 and captured his second title in 2001.

He began riding regularly at Oaklawn in 1990 and recorded 947 victories in Hot Springs, including 51 in stakes. The Hall of Famer won all five of Oaklawn's major Racing Festival of the South events at least once, including the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1993 aboard 108-1 long shot Rockamundo.

“It was just one amazing God-given ride,” Hissam said.

Hissam retired before the 2016 Oaklawn meeting and now works in customer service at the track.

Borel's 50th and 51st Oaklawn stakes victories came aboard the popular sprinter Ivan Fallunovalot in consecutive runnings (2015 and 2016) of the $100,000 King Cotton for trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs. He also rode Ivan Fallunovalot to a ninth-place finish in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.

“His professional input and feedback on a horse has been invaluable,” said Howard's wife/assistant, Kathy. “He drove over from Louisville to Keeneland and galloped Ivan for the Breeders' Cup. How strong is that? He's been so good to us.”

The Howards said Borel's loyalty extended off the track.

“We consider him a friend, personally and professionally,” Kathy Howard said.

In what would be his final career mount, Borel finished fourth aboard the Tom Howard-trained Mud Light in Saturday's $100,000 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn. His final career victory came aboard Thrylos March 18 at Oaklawn for trainer Lon Wiggins, who also has Cosmic Evolution.

Borel won the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) in 2009 aboard Rachel Alexandra for Wiggins' father, retired trainer Hal Wiggins.

He had seven victories at this year's Oaklawn meeting.

Upon learning the news of Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel's retirement on Wednesday morning, Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery issued the following statement:

“Along with his three Kentucky Derby victories and his status as one of the most accomplished jockeys in Churchill Downs history, Calvin's 20 years at our track were as notable for his relationship with our fans as his excellence on the track. Calvin rose to racing's Hall of Fame from humble beginnings, and that was reflected in his ongoing relationship with our fans – and especially children. He loved the kids and felt a responsibility to provide a positive image to them and to let them know daily how much he appreciated them. There have been few, if any, individuals quite like Calvin Borel in 142 years of history at Churchill Downs. We thank him for a job well done and wish him the best in the future.”

Borel spent his first full season riding at Churchill Downs in the Fall of 1995. He won 1,189 races over 45 race meetings beneath the Twin Spires to rank second all-time at Churchill Downs only behind Pat Day's 2,482 victories. Sixty of Borel's victories came in stakes events, which places him third all-time at the track behind Day's 156 and Robby Albarado's 76.

Borel was a four-time leading rider at Churchill Downs: 1999 Fall (42 wins), 2006 Fall (23), 2009 Fall (27) and 2010 Spring (52).


  • A penny for your thoughts

    Calvin had his gutsy rail skimming moments leaving us bettors hoping he got thru the opening LOL but seriously, A great jock, down to earth and deserves a peaceful retirement.

    Jockeys seem to pull the plug on their career out of the clear blue sky sometimes! Sounds like he knew that it’s time to step back and enjoy life without the major race riding risks

    • Elle D

      The body usually knows before the mind.


    I will never forget the incredible ground saving ride you put on our horse Super Saver in the 2010 Derby. It was your patented ride and one of the best I have ever seen.
    Glad you are retiring with good health and the capacity to enjoy the coming years.
    Go get a banana split on me–you deserve it.
    Thanks for the memories.

    • Jen

      God bless him. What a ride, and many others. My spouse’s first thought–“Next stop–Whataburger!!!!” :) :)

      May the next chapters also be wonderful for you and your family, Mr. B. Many thanks for all the thrills. THUMBS WAY UP :)

    • Jil McIntosh

      That was my first and so far only “in-person” Derby – the thrill of a lifetime – and I watched Calvin’s masterful ride. It was also the first time I’d ever laid a bet on the Derby and I put it on Super Saver. Here’s to a long and happy retirement, Calvin.

      • roseann cherasaro

        It was my first Derby live and in person too.Happy Retirement to Calvin.

    • David Worley

      I totally agree with your assessment of Borel’s ride in the 2010 derby. It was as close to a perfect ride as one can pull off. While Super Saver was an outstanding 3YO it is likely he would not have won that race without Borel’s ride. Borel’s other two victories were good trips as well.

      In total, one of Calvin’s great jockeying gifts (in my opinion) was his ability to put his horse in the best position to win (particularly in big races). It seems Calvin usually had his mount where that particular horse needed to be at the top of the stretch; you can’t ask for much more from your jockey.


        You are correct–any other rider would have taken the overland route and got him beat. Calvin never feared the rail and fully understood that it provided the shortest path to the wire.

        • whirlaway

          The courage of these horses was also great to see including your Super
          Saver. Calvin not only had confidence in his mounts the horses sensed a rider to lead them to victory and both horse and rider were truly a team, great memories.

    • jacob.bratcher

      That’s one of the most sincere and touching tributes I’ve read in a while. Best in all your future endeavors, Calvin!

  • SPA

    I’ll never forget the 22 kidney shots he gave Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Woodward. He abused that mare that day and many can never forgive him for that. Rachel was never the same after that.

    • Rick

      if he didnt she loses

      • Hopefieldstables


        Explain to an outsider why if a groom strikes a horse 22 times it is abuse but once money is on the line it is ok for the jockey to do it.

        It is said that this sport “is the most public display of violence against an animal”. Can that be disputed? Little wonder the sport struggles to attract a new generation of fans.

        How is hitting a horse 22 times not objectively wrong? how does the final placing render it ethical?

        Or we do we accept this is an unethical sport.

        • mike

          football ? Boxing ? Hockey ? Hunting ? extreme fighting ? even car racing (people die), unethical ???? depends who you ask

        • tony a

          Well the groom more than likely wouldn’t have used a padded crop on the rump or flank, he probably would’ve used a rake or a shovel or his hand on the face, head, stomach, leg or private part.

  • Robert

    Upon learning the news of Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel’s retirement on Wednesday morning, Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery issued the following statement: “Just like everybody else, Calvin will be charged $3,000 (per seat) for admission to section 316 on Derby Day for the remainder of his life. If Calvin chooses to park with 5 square miles of CHDN he will be charged $500 (per person). Calvin will also need to return any profits on wagering (Any $ money still left in his pockets) before leaving the premises. Have a nice day – love CHDN”

    • Rick

      thats too funny

      • SPA

        No criticism allowed, everyone must conform to groupthink. I always put the horse first and my comment reflected that.

  • Unique likable character. He was a wonderful ambassador for the sport and unlike the Jerry Baileys of the racing world (who think it is jockey racing), Calvin appreciated how great the animals beneath him were. Best of luck in all you do Calvin!

  • mike

    good luck and all the best to Calvin Borrell ! Worked hard and rode hard, won a lot of races.

  • C Hogan

    Thanks Calvin for all the good times you provided me at the tracks with your come off rides up the fence.
    All the best to you and your family.

  • Bein

    Seems out of character for Calvin to quit before his current commitments are met. I hope he’s alright.

  • Bev

    It’s TIME. That’s the only reason he has to give. Thank you Calvin for all your years giving us fans some thrills. You WILL be missed. Happy Retirement. Well earned and well deserved.

  • trooper seven

    What a gift! To go off a diet and have no worries! Just kidding. Your rail ride on Mine That Bird was one of the most exciting rides I’ve ever watched.

  • Bein

    Calvin and Mine That Bird was the best ever. Thanks, Calvin. I hope you’ll still find your way in front of a TV camera during the big races.

    • vinceNYC

      TV camera …he cant speak…Riding is all he can do

      • Bein

        I think Calvin speaks very well.

  • David H

    I remember seeing Calvin ride 25-1 long “Free Spirits Joy” to a big upset in the Super Derby.
    My wife won big time because loved to bet on Calvin.

  • Gotchagold

    Enjoy your retirement Mr. Borel, you certainly deserved it. You will be missed.

  • Larry Ensor

    Another one of my favorites hanging up the tack. Thanks for the “ride”. I just watched 50-1. Pretty good other than the over the top “snob cliché”. I thought Calvin playing himself was a good choice. He should think about hiring another “agent”. Might make a good character actor. NCIS New Orleans.

  • Ida Lee

    Calvin, thanks for the memories but especially for loving Rachel as much I did. Now, a great meal of fried calamari, lobster ravioli, and chocolate lava cake can be found at the Olive Garden. Have a great retirement…it was a joy watching you race.

    • SPA

      Watch the 2009 Woodward, he really loved her that day.

      • Ida Lee

        The Preakness, Haskell and Wodward were my favorites and believe me I have watched them often. And yeah, especially after the Woodward, Calvin could not take his hands or lips off Rachel. I read an adorable article where Lisa (not yet married) asked Calvin who he loved more, her or Rachel. There was an embarrassing pause on Calvin’s part before answering …. hilarious…

        • SPA

          I was referring to him not taking his whip off her kidneys that day.

          • Ida Lee

            You know SPA …. I would bet my lungs that Calvin, never, and I do mean never, did anything with the whip or anything else to deliberately hurt Rachel, either on or off the track. I saw Rachel buck up and send him flying which worried me thinking Rachel did not want to race and was rank before the Woodward and I know he used the whip pretty much at the end when she was challenged by Macho Man but I never considered his treatment of her abusive in any way. I don’t remember anyone reporting any whip bruises or cuts or anything like that on her. I do remember that some people were quite upset because of his perceived excessive use of the whip. We heard the same thing about Victor using the whip on Pharoah. Didn’t see it as excessive with Pharoah either. Calvin rode Rachel into history and he will always be the jockey

          • vinceNYC

            22 times in the last 3/16th of a mile…..He was doing his job riding the horse to win…

          • Rachel was a high headed race horse. You couldn’t push on her neck like a horse that carries their head lower.

  • carate

    Say it ain’t so… Its up to you but I hope after some time off, whenever it is, you make a comeback. Otherwise we will have the memories… Thanks Calvin for the great rides. Either way, hope to see you at the track.

  • gus stewart

    East coast rider never met him, but i do remember showing his emotions with tears, and his competitiveness on the track. Good luck in retirement enjoy it, you were a great ambassador of racing…

  • tahini

    My memory of Calvin was him signing autographs for the PDJF at Hoosier park. I have a photo of him with Mine that Bird. A legend and a better gentleman off of the track. Happy retirement Calvin!!

  • JohnB

    Many things impressed me about Calvin – He rode fearlessly which accounted for so many of his wins. His work ethic in the mornings , saw him many times helping his brother in the barn. Always had a smile on his face and a hello for those he passed. Regardless of his success he was still Calvin and was aware that it was a team effort , both horse , trainer , groom, hotwalker and himself. Not many around that are that way. Hope the fish are biting and he enjoys his retirement.

  • Race fan

    Enjoyed him in the movie. If he keeps his weight he will be back . If not everybody retires see Ya

  • R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Calvin Borel is one of the most talented riders of this era and a nice guy to boot. He has helped our organization for the past several years signing photos for us to help us raise funds for racehorse retirement. He excelled and what he loved to do. Although he gave us so many thrills on horses like Rachel Alexandra, Super Saver, Street Sense and many others, his ride on Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby will go down in the history books as one of the most thrilling of all time. Best of luck Calvin. You are the best. Thank you for all you gave to the sport. What a great ride it has been.

  • Kellye Pikul

    I lived in Austin until 1994. The only racing I saw was the replay show of the Louisiana circuit. Highlight of my day! Calvin won everything. I assumed he was nationally famous. We went to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby and Calvin won on Rockamundo at huge odds. I was so confused. Who didn’t know to bet on Calvin?
    I loved the story his wife told of getting the news that he’d been voted into the HOF. She ran out to tell him, crying tears of joy. He was mowing the lawn, saw her tears, and sprinted into the house to check on the dogs. I think after one of his Derby wins he told the NBC audience that he had to hurry home to feed his dogs. I love it.

  • longshot

    I don’t know. It all sounds to sudden. Maybe he just got fed up with the way things are going and said the heck with it. I think he still got alot of wins left in him. I hope he comes back

  • Flip Dawson

    Mine That bird was at WO before he won the Derby. It was touted all around WO, and soon as I found Bo-Rail was on him, got my wallet out of moth balls.

  • Flip Dawson

    Hope comes back, but he needs the rest. I really liked it when he got into the fight with another jockey near the winners circle. Showed me then he wanted to win more than the rest of them. watched him carefully after that.

  • Bob C

    Best of luck Calvin. You have been a credit to the game.

  • JoeJoe

    Enjoy retirement Calvin. Don’t come back like 4x like PVAL. Retire and smell the roses.

  • Joe Strummer

    Maybe he will have time to get some teeth now.

  • Patricia Hooker

    I sad I will never get meet him but he was my favorite jockey just for that fact he did like the people who came out to see him ride. The two Brewders Cup I been 2013&2014 he was not at so I was disappointed but I was hoping he was going to be at this years Breeders Cup. I do wish him all the best and now he will be able to enjoy eating without worrying about his weight.

  • Kathy Baldwin

    God bless you Calvin Borel! Kick back, chillax, eat some good food and enjoy your retirement. Thank you for all the awesome race riding! You will be missed!
    Peace & Love to you, your family and true friends! xoxo
    p.s. You can always make a “come-back”! ;)

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