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).
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