Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Page 56 of 132

$ 138 REASONS WE LOVE DERBY No. 104: Con By Jenni Laidman Illustration by Steve Carlton It's 2009. Maybe you've never heard of Calvin Borel. Maybe you've never known a thing about horse racing. And then, on the televi- sion screen, there is this guy with a skeleton face and this big, toothless, open-mouthed shout, riding through the mud at Churchill Downs, arms up in victory. And then he's crying. He is still bouncing on top of that horse, and he's crying on national television, and for some reason you do not think it's corny. He says in that crackly voice of his — the voice that sounds a little static-y, as if it's coming through an old radio not quite tuned to the station — he says, "I love you, sweetie." And, for a moment, you think he's talking to the woman reporter riding next to him, until she says, "Who'd you say I love you to?" "My mom and daddy." "Who are no longer with us." "I wish they were here," Borel creaks. "Oh Lord, if they could only be here, to see what I accomplished in my life." He's way beyond a little choked up. And you still don't think it's corny. You think, man, I love this guy, this guy with mud all over his face. Tis guy being all emotional and unself-conscious, doffing his cap and raising his arms, letting loose a loud, high cackle as the crowd chants, "Cal- vin. Cal-vin. Cal-vin." A few minutes later, he plucks a rose from the garland draped across Mine Tat Bird, holds it to his lips, and tosses it straight into the air. Oh yeah. Tis guy. You love him. [54] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.12 alvin He's been responsible for many great payoffs, but his odds — good for him, not for us — are coming down. When Calvin Borel rode 50-1 shot, who- the-hell-is-he? Mine Tat Bird on the crazi- est out-of-nowhere sprint to the front of the pack, everybody loved it: Mine Tat Bird trailing the pack. Forgotten. Out-classed. Ten, by some kind of weird Cajun voodoo, spiriting through a space along the rail the width of an atom, overtaking the leaders so swiftly that he's a gazillion lengths ahead before the track announcer notices. Huzzah! Two-dollar bettors who wagered on Mine Tat Bird (or, more likely, Borel) went home with $103.20, the largest $2 payoff since 1913. It was Borel's second Derby victory. Two years earlier, he rode Street Sense along the rail to the winner's circle. Ten in 2010, Borel became the first jockey to win three Derbys in four years with Super Saver, flying up along the rail like he owned it. But it was Mine Tat Bird that birthed the "Calvin Effect" and sealed the jockey's mystique. Calvin Borel could gallop a stick horse in the mud at Churchill Downs and, guaran- teed, the stick's odds would be lower than half the field. Tere's no voodoo here, Borel insists. He performs well at Churchill because it feels like home. "I believe it's because it's a track like the one in Shreveport where I grew up," Borel says in a telephone interview from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. "Every pole is the same; the turns are the same. I ride it real good, and that has a lot to do with it." Te existence of the Calvin Effect became inarguable at last year's Derby when the jockey gave longshot Twice the Appeal considerably more than twice the appeal to bettors. "Most of the oddsmakers, before Calvin was named to be the rider, pegged this horse somewhere around 50-1," says George Kaywood, author of Te Handicapper's Basic Survival Guide, who runs the website handicapping.com. When Borel's mount, Elite Alex, failed to make the Derby, the jockey switched to Twice the Appeal, and "the odds dropped immedi- ately to 7-1 and went off at 12-1," Kaywood says. Te horse finished 10th, far behind the winner, Animal Kingdom. "Tat's a dramatic example," Kaywood says. "Tat was a huge field, and it showed the power a real hot name can have. Because of the fact that you have not only national but international wagering available online, it probably affected things a little more." John Asher, vice president of communi- cations at Churchill Downs, agrees. "In a 20-horse field of the best three-year-olds in the world, or certainly in North America, when a horse you couldn't make a huge case for ends up going off at 12-1 — with any other jockey, it wouldn't have happened. But in terms of the Derby, and people who love the Derby, Calvin is as much folk hero as anything." And thus the Calvin Effect. Of course, before there was the Calvin Effect, there was the Pat Day Paradox: Te mysterious

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