Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel has retired, effectively immediately, his agent, Larry Melancon, confirmed Wednesday morning at Oaklawn.
Borel, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001, couldn’t be reached for comment and no reason was given for the retirement. He was named on seven horses the next three racing days at Oaklawn and was scheduled to work horses Wednesday morning, including Cosmic Evolution for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9.
Melancon said Borel, 50, informed him Tuesday afternoon that he was retiring. The two talked again about 40 minutes before the track opened Wednesday morning, Melancon said, and nothing had changed.
“That’s all I know,” said Melancon, who had Borel’s book since late August.
Jerry Hissam of Hot Springs, Borel’s close friend and longtime agent, was also unable to shed any light on the jockey’s abrupt retirement.
“I spoke with him and he said it was time,” Hissam said. “It was just time.”
Hissam had represented Borel for most of the last 25 years after taking the jockey’s book at the 1991 Oaklawn meeting.
According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Borel retires with 5,146 career victories – 27th-highest total in North American history – and purse earnings of $127,087,376. He rode his first winner in 1983.
A native of St. Martinville, La., Borel earned the nickname “Bo-Rail” for his daring ground-saving rides, a style that carried him to an unprecedented three Kentucky Derby victories in four years (2007, 2009 and 2010).
Borel also won the Preakness aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2013.
Borel enjoyed immense success at Oaklawn, recording his 3,000th, 4,000th and 5,000th career victories in Hot Springs. He became the 26th jockey in North American history to reach 5,000 victories March 7, 2013.
Borel ended Pat Day’s 12-year run as Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and captured his second title in 2001.
He began riding regularly at Oaklawn in 1990 and recorded 947 victories in Hot Springs, including 51 in stakes. The Hall of Famer won all five of Oaklawn’s major Racing Festival of the South events at least once, including the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1993 aboard 108-1 long shot Rockamundo.
“It was just one amazing God-given ride,” Hissam said.
Hissam retired before the 2016 Oaklawn meeting and now works in customer service at the track.
Borel’s 50th and 51st Oaklawn stakes victories came aboard the popular sprinter Ivan Fallunovalot, a Texas-bred by Valid Expectations, in consecutive runnings (2015 and 2016) of the $100,000 King Cotton for trainer Tom Howard of Hot Springs. He also rode Ivan Fallunovalot to a ninth-place finish in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Oct. 31 at Keeneland.
“His professional input and feedback on a horse has been invaluable,” said Howard’s wife/assistant, Kathy. “He drove over from Louisville to Keeneland and galloped Ivan for the Breeders’ Cup. How strong is that? He’s been so good to us.”
The Howards said Borel’s loyalty extended off the track.
“We consider him a friend, personally and professionally,” Kathy Howard said.
In what would be his final career mount, Borel finished fourth aboard the Tom Howard-trained Mud Light in Saturday’s $100,000 Gazebo Stakes at Oaklawn. His final career victory came aboard Thrylos March 18 at Oaklawn for trainer Lon Wiggins, who also has Cosmic Evolution.
Borel won the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes and $250,000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) in 2009 aboard Rachel Alexandra for Wiggins’ father, retired trainer Hal Wiggins.
He had seven victories at this year’s Oaklawn meeting.