Calvin Borel, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Bands (gr. I) aboard Street Sense, won the Inaugural "Cajun Jockey Challenge" at Evangeline Downs on Friday night.
Borel broke a three-way tie between himself, Robby Albarado and Kerwin Clark by defeating Albarado to win the fourth and final leg of the contest, the $50,000 Cajun Jockey Starter Handicap aboard Marion’s Man ($15.60).
“This was sweet revenge," Borel said, referring to this year's Preakness (gr. I) when Albarado nudged Curlin past Street Sense in the closing stages. "At the top of the stretch when Robby and I rallied to the front, I yelled over to him, 'Let’s go!'
“It’s hard to put into words how much this experience meant to me and all the riders who participated. Like most of us, we spent the formative years of our lives and careers riding with and learning from these guys. This is and always will be home and to come back and be able to compete and win this event in front of the people who helped all of us get started and to see the enthusiastic response from the crowd was awesome.”
Under the format of the competition, riders received points each time they finished in the top three and with three different riders winning the first three legs, it all came down to the final leg. The crowd got all that they could ask for as Borel and Albarado staged a stretch-long duel. Borel received a crystal trophy commemorating his victory in addition to the $5,000 first prize and bragging rights.
Borel won the first leg aboard Evacuation ($29.20). Employing a typical “Boo-Rail” ride, Borel was able to maneuver Evacuation to the rail despite starting from the outside post 12 in the six-furlong event. Saving ground the entire way, Borel delighted his fans as he snuck past the pacesetters in the final furlong to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Larry Melancon finished second with Big Eyed Malagra. Tracy Hebert was placed third aboard Thesilverofficer after the disqualification of the original third place finisher, Duclaw.
Albarado captured the second leg when the much-improved Oriza ($10.40) won the seven-furlong race in front-running fashion by seven lengths. A pair of 20-1 shots rounded out the top three -- Gerard Melancon finished second with Secret Buckle and Curt Bourque checked in third aboard Worlds of Class.
Kerwin Clark scored one for the home team as he rallied Kitty Violet ($10.40) from far back to win the third leg. Clark, who rode his first of more than 2,200 lifetime wins in 1975 at Evangeline Downs, timed the run of Kitty Violet to perfection. The daughter of Pancho Villa just got up in the final strides. Louisa Lee, the only favorite to cross the wire in the top three during the first three legs, was second for B.J. Hernandez Jr., the 2004 Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. Mark Guidry, who recently announced his plans to retire in November after 32 years in the saddle, was third with Diamond Annie.
Borel, a 40-year-old native of St. Martin, La., is from a racing family. Older brother Cecil, a Kentucky-based trainer, has won more than 4,350 races in his career which began in 1982 in South Louisiana. Calvin Borel now resides in Louisville, Ky., and rides primarily in Kentucky and Arkansas.
Here’s the complete order of finish for the 2007 Inaugural Cajun Jockey Challenge:
1. Calvin Borel ($5,000)
2. Robby Albarado ($2,500)
3. Kerwin Clark ($1,000)
4. Larry Melancon
5. B. J. Hernandez Jr.
6. Gerard Melancon
7. Curt Bourque
8. Mark Guidry
9. Tracy Hebert
10. Corey Lanerie
11. Steve Bourque
12. E. J. Perrodin