Ride of his life takes Borel all the way to White House

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - By Bill Dwyre

BAL­TI­MORE — Two weeks ago, we didn’t know Calvin Borel from Calvin Klein. To­day, he will be the straw that stirs all those Black-Eyed Su­sans served here at the Preak­ness.

Borel is a 111-pound jockey who has be­come the 800-pound go­rilla this Triple Crown horse rac­ing sea­son.

The horses are sup­posed to be the stars, and Preak­ness fa­vorite Street Sense is cer­tainly that. But the guy driv­ing the bus war­rants cur­tain calls too. In the Ken­tucky Derby, a mile-and-aquar­ter ride that took 2 min­utes 2.17 sec­onds, Borel be­came the per­fect storm of horse rac­ing sto­ries.

He is the 40-year-old son of a Ca­jun farmer who taught his fam­ily the value of hard work but didn’t in­clude for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in that equa­tion. Borel doesn’t read or write, but the word “il­lit­er­ate” doesn’t quite do him jus­tice. He speaks French as well as English and is en­gaged to 27year-old Louisville grad­u­ate Lisa Funk, who is work­ing to­ward her teach­ing de­gree.

Borel works seven days a week, most of the time rid­ing horses and some­times clean­ing their stalls. He has rid­den suc­cess­fully since he was a teenager and has more than 4,000 wins and $80 mil­lion in win­nings. The Derby cer­tainly wasn’t his first big race, but his is not a name that falls nat­u­rally along­side the likes of Shoe­maker, Ar­caro, Longden and Pin­cay.

When he won the Derby on Street Sense, he cel­e­brated openly and un­abashedly on na­tional TV, got in­vited to a White House din­ner and an ap­pear­ance on “The Tonight Show.” He said yes to Ge­orge W. and no to Jay L. Some would ques­tion those de­ci­sions, but he did get to wear a tuxedo and meet Queen El­iz­a­beth at the White House.

He says he re­mem­bers the pa­parazzi when he got out of the limo in Wash­ing­ton.

“Scared the hell out of me,” he says.

The pres­i­dent hugged him and told him he was “the man of the hour.” Then he in­tro­duced Borel to the Queen, who had been at the race and who con­grat­u­lated him. Borel uses his fa­vorite word to de­scribe all that. “It was awe­some,” he says. So was the re­cep­tion he re­ceived when he ar­rived home the night of the Derby, in his neigh­bor­hood about 10 min­utes from Louisville’s Churchill Downs.

“There were a bunch of 6- and 7-year-olds, singing a song about me and Street Sense,” he says. “It was the damnedest thing I ever saw. Made me cry.”

bill.dwyre@la­times.com

Haraz N. Ghanbari As­so­ci­ated Press

ROYAL TREAT­MENT:

Calvin Borel and fi­ancee Lisa Funk ar­rive at a state din­ner for Queen El­iz­a­beth at the White House.

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