Yesterday we here in Kentucky celebrated the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. We also celebrated, if you can call it that, the non-stop rain which left the track muddy, the Derby hats limp and jockey Calvin Borel with his third Kentucky Derby win in four years — a new record.
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There’s Calvin on the right, living up to his nickname, “Bo-Rail,” for his affection for running his horse along the rail. It worked for him last year on Mine That Bird and in 2007 on Street Sense, when he won his first Derby as Queen Elizabeth watched from the grandstand.
“It’s the shortest way around,” he always says.
I grew up in Kentucky and I’ve never lived anywhere else, so the Derby is as ordinary to me as air. I’m not Horse People, I’m not remotely connected to anything horsey, except by proximity, since I live in Lexington, and I’ve only been to the Derby twice. There are Kentuckians who don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the annual horse race, which captures at least some of the world’s attention for a couple minutes on the first Saturday in May. And that’s OK too. But for me, it’s something completely ordinary to turn on the TV on Saturday afternoon on Derby Day and watch the coverage, or maybe attend a party (though I haven’t been to one in years).
But my interest stepped up a notch a couple years ago when Calvin Borel was brought to my attention. He’s from Louisiana, home state of my beloved, who falls into the group I mentioned above — they who pay only scant attention to the Run for the Roses. We were both captivated by his self-effacing manner, his bald displays of emotion upon winning the holy grail of horseracing and his patented method for achieving the win. Now in one of those “I was country before country was cool” moments, I was a Calvin girl before Calvin was cool. I was drawn to him by the association with Tras’s homestate and well, look at him now.
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Here’s his wife getting a victory smooch and holding up three fingers for his third win … maybe it’s for the Triple Crown, where Calvin’s headed next.
We all love a good story, and Calvin certainly is one. He’s like a cross between Rocky and Seabiscuit. Plucked from obscurity in 2007, trainer Carl Nafzger gave him his shot on Street Sense and look at him now. He owns the Derby.
See you at Pimlico for the Preakness in two weeks, Calvin. Maybe the rain will have stopped by then.