Borel rode Super Saver to a five-length victory in that Kentucky Jockey Club race last November, a performance so impressive that it prompted Hissam to tell Pletcher, "We're gonna break your Derby maiden." Borel missed the colt's third-place finish in the Tampa Derby on March 13 while riding Rachel's 2010 debut in Louisiana. But the jockey was back aboard Super Saver for his second-place finish behind Line of David in the April 10 Arkansas Derby and also for a critical four-furlong workout on a sloppy Churchill track seven days before the Derby. "He loved that work," said Borel's wife, Lisa. "He loved the way the colt relaxed for him."
Borel's ride in the Derby was less dramatic than his two previous wins (in both cases he was more than 20 lengths behind and passed 18 horses to win) but eerily similar in one key aspect: He again did it from the tight rail, swinging outside to pass tiring Conveyance just as he reached the top of the stretch before diving back inside Noble's Promise. Borel was not just inside but nearly brushing the metal fence. "You've got to be ballsy to go down there like that," said Baffert, who trained Conveyance in addition to Lookin At Lucky, who was bounced around and finished sixth. "But the way he rides, he keeps a good horse out of trouble."
Borel's repeat rail success was as inexplicable to professionals as to fans. "He's very blessed, I'll say that," said Nick Zito, the trainer of Ice Box and Jackson Bend.
"He's the king," said jockey Robbie Albarado, who finished 14th on long shot Dean's Kitten. "He's more comfortable down there [on the rail] than anybody else. And you've got to have the horse, which he did." That horse will go on to the Preakness, the 32nd Derby winner with a chance for racing's Triple Crown since Affirmed last won it, in 1978. Super Saver will prove himself either a rare champion or a fortunate mudder with a jockey touched by fate.
Borel, who ceased heaving (vomiting to lose weight) only four years ago and now follows a strict diet, rode the race immediately after the Derby (finishing third of nine on a horse owned by Jackson) before going into the jockeys' room. Sitting at his cubicle, Borel was cooled by cold towels and given water to drink. Only then did he speak at a press conference. He is the first jockey to win three Derbys in four years, and for the third time in four years he was prodded to explain a style that is more instinctive than cerebral. His best answer was this: "I was born to ride, sir."
Pletcher, meanwhile, was true to his own form, attending a postrace party at the Kentucky Derby Museum only briefly before rushing back to his barn to share the victory with the dozens of workers in his employ at Churchill. The racing family at Barn 34 used blacksmith's pliers to yank the tops off beer bottles and ate from a makeshift buffet laid out on equipment trunks. Super Saver poked his head out from a stall. As darkness fell on the Downs, Pletcher stood in the middle of the crowd and raised a beer to the sky, toasting a long journey ended and the little man who brought the Derby horse home. Again.
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