Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jockey Borel pulls a Namath, guarantees win

Highly confident on personal Triple Crown

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ELMONT, N.Y. -- Calvin Borel has been in town all week. The jockey of the moment hasn't done any riding at Belmont Park yet but he has done plenty of talking.

On Saturday, the 42-year-old Kentucky-based rider can make history when he rides Mine That Bird in the US$1-million Belmont Stakes.

Borel can become the first jockey in the history of the fabled Triple Crown to win all three races in the same year on different horses.

The way Borel is talking, they might as well box up the trophy and send it to his home in Louisville. He doesn't plan on losing, doesn't think there is any way he and Mine That Bird won't be getting their pictures taken in the winner's circle early Saturday night.

"We'll win it," Borel has said to anyone who has asked since landing in Gotham on Monday night.

Those boasts have raised eyebrows from the Belmont jockeys' room to the far reaches of the track's backstretch.

"He should keep those thoughts to himself," jockey Kent Desormeaux said Thursday afternoon. "Ask Big Brown."

Desormeaux rode Big Brown to victory in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness and then flopped in the Belmont, finishing last after his trainer, Rick Dutrow, said victory was a sure thing.

Mine That Bird, the Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, is being reunited with Borel, who rode him in Louisville but then jumped off to ride filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness.

Borel, who will appear on Good Morning America on Friday morning and then on David Letterman's show Friday night, has been talking the talk.

Thursday afternoon, Borel didn't back off when given every opportunity to take his boast back.

"No sir," Borel said. "I'm going to ride him with so much confidence. I think that's why I win races, because I ride with confidence. And, this one is going good right now. I have no excuses."


The most famous guarantee in sports history came before Super Bowl III in 1969 when New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath told the world his team would shock the heavily favoured Baltimore Colts, which they did.

Most of the time, though, guarantees in sports can only cause headaches.

Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey, roaming the Belmont backstretch Thursday morning, chuckled when asked about Borel's confidence. He can't remember ever claiming a sure victory publicly and he rode the great Cigar back in the mid-1990s.

"Maybe before I stopped drinking," he said when asked if he ever guaranteed victory. "I was confident at times but there are so many things that are out of our control. What if the horse is having an off day? What if he is sick? I never did it because I never wanted to jinx myself. But, that's Calvin. It's his personality. Good for the game? Well, it's not going to hurt it."

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will saddle Charitable Man in the Belmont, said he doesn't have any problem with Borel showing off his confidence. That being said, he wouldn't want to see his rider, Alan Garcia, crowing to the media about Charitable Man winning the Belmont.

Borel isn't going to back of his stance in the last days leading up to the Belmont. Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird's trainer, doesn't want him to.

"If he feels that strongly... I speak my mind and I expect him to speak his," Woolley said. "I've got no problem with that."


-- Albany Times Union

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 5, 2009 C5

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