One of the most beloved figures in Saratoga's history is enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Friday. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on the 2013 induction ceremony.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In a sport defined by singular moments, jockey Calvin Borel's story is one of repeated trips to the mountain top. Three times in four years, the Cajun known as "Boo" hugged the rail and rode his way to the Kentucky Derby winner's circle.
"Calvin Borel won the Kentucky Derby three times in four years, that's pretty cool!” said NYRA Track Announcer Tom Durkin, the emcee of Friday’s festivities.
On Friday the 46-year-old, Borel lead a class of eight into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
"It's soaking in,” Borel said following the ceremony. “I'm very blessed to be where I am, thank God."
Borel's Derby heroics brought him national fame and even an audience with Queen Elizabeth, but it was his perfect nine for nine campaign with champion filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009 that forever endeared him to Saratoga's racing faithful.
"You know, there's horses, good horses and great horses. She was a great horse," Borel said of the 2009 Horse of the Year.
If there's a testament to the duo's greatness, it's that Borel had the guts to abandon Derby winner Mine that Bird and ride the filly to victory in the Preakness two weeks later.
“Nothing against Mine that Bird,” said Borel, who won his second Derby on the gelding. “He wasn't a fluke or nothing like that, bless his heart, I just did what I thought was right."
The successful gamble was a sign of things to come, setting the stage for a spine tingling victory over males in Saratoga's Woodward Stakes later that summer.
"I thought it was such a gutsy race,” Borel said. “It was so hot that day but that's how she was."
Enshrined alongside Borel this year are three other graded stakes winners at Saratoga: Housebuster, Lure and Invasor. Joining them are steeplechase champions McDynamo and Tuscalee. Friday and forever, all bear the label "Hall of Famer."
"When it comes to loyalty, what the business is about, why are you in the horse business? It’s because you love the horse and you love the game, that's Calvin," said Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger, who teamed with Borel to win the 2007 Derby and Travers with Street Sense.
"We see the good parts now but it wasn't always good,” Borel said. “Believe me, it's tough sometimes but we stuck it out, stuck it out, stuck it out and it paid off."
Also entering the Hall of Fame Friday were August Belmont II and Paul Mellon, who were inducted in the new "Pillars of the Turf" category.