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Derby icon Borel to ride at Prairie Meadows this weekend
Updated 6:11 pm

By DAN JOHNSON - dansjohn@dmreg.com - June 24, 2010

Calvin Borel's trips to Wal-Mart aren't as quick as they used to be.

Borel, who will be riding at Prairie Meadows Friday and Saturday during the track's Iowa Festival of Racing, has done things the past two years that no other rider in history has accomplished. As a result, he has become perhaps America's best-known jockey at age 43.

"Wherever you go, people know you," Borel said. "I used to go to Wal-Mart all the time and nobody would know me. Now I go and sign autographs all the time."

When he won the Kentucky Derby aboard Super Saver in May, Borel became the first rider in history to win the Derby three times in four years. He had previously taken the race with Street Sense in 2007 and Mine That Bird in 2009.

And last year, Borel became the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on different horses. His Derby win on 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird was the second-biggest upset in the race's history. Then he gave up the mount on the Derby winner to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra - whom he called "a once-in-a-lifetime horse" - in the Preakness. She became the first filly in 85 years to win the race.

"I've pinched myself quite a few times," he said. "Since my mom and dad died, I've won two more Derbies, and sometimes I think it's just an angel riding with me. I wish they could be here to see what I've accomplished in my life, but they know."

So what else has changed for Borel, aside from being invited to the White House, appearing on "The Tonight Show" and being asked to speak at more schools?

Not a whole lot.

Borel, who grew up in Louisiana and started riding in match races at bush tracks when he was 8, still drives a 10-year-old truck. He rides for many of the trainers that gave him mounts in 1990.

"He hasn't changed one bit," said trainer William Bradley, who has Borel on Brass Hat in Saturday's Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup. "He loves the fans and he hasn't forgotten where he came from. He talks to anybody, he speaks to everybody.

"He's at the barn every morning working horses. His work ethic hasn't changed a bit. I used to walk into Louisiana Downs at 4 o'clock in the morning, and he was already there, helping his brother (trainer Cecil) walk horses or clean stalls. He's that way now. He's old school."

Borel said he has learned not to get carried away with racing's ups and downs.

"Everybody puts their pants on the same way," Borel said. "I'm doing good now, but everybody only does good for so long. I'm always ready to help somebody, because I've been very blessed. I've seen a lot of people work hard and not get the opportunity."

This is Borel's second trip to Prairie Meadows. In 2008, he rode the filly Day of Victory to a third-place finish against colts in the Iowa Derby.

He has a strong chance to reach the winner's circle in his return. Atta Boy Roy will be the favorite in Friday's Iowa Sprint. He is on three contenders in Saturday's stakes races - Brass Hat is one of the top contenders in the Cornhusker, Seeking the Title in the Iowa Oaks and Down With Dixie in the Iowa Derby.

"I like all of them," Borel said. "Atta Boy Roy is a nice horse, a good sprinter. We were a little unfortunate last time (finishing second in the Aristides), he got off a step slow. He's a great sprinter, though. Probably one of the best sprinters I've been on in a long time."

And despite the stars he has ridden, Borel said the 9-year-old Brass Hat remains one of his favorites.

"He is, because he's consistent," Borel said. "He might not win every trip, but he's always right there. He's the kind of horse that tries his heart out. I've been begging Buff (Bradley) to put him on dirt. I've ridden him on dirt before, and he's run some good races. This race came along and I said, 'Buff, this is a good spot.'

Borel has won 4,781 races, which ranks 31st among the sport's winningest jockeys. He is still looking ahead, to either the next win or the next star horse.

"I'd love to win 5,000 races," he said. "I'm just working with my 2-year-olds, trying to find another one. You win the Derby, then you want another one and another one. It's very addictive, especially if you're a horse person and you love the horses like I do, it's very addictive."

A riding Triple Crown

Jockeys that won all three of this year's Triple Crown races will be riding in Prairie Meadows' Iowa Festival of Racing tonight and Saturday. These are their mounts this weekend:

CALVIN BOREL (KENTUCKY DERBY, SUPER SAVER)
Friday: Atta Boy Roy, Iowa Sprint
Saturday: Seeking the Title, Iowa Oaks
Saturday: Down With Dixie, Iowa Derby
Saturday: Brass Hat, Prairie Meadows Cornhusker

MARTIN GARCIA (PREAKNESS, LOOKIN AT LUCKY)
Friday: Miss Heather Lee, Saylorville
Saturday: Harissa, Iowa Oaks
Saturday: Concord Point, Iowa Derby
Saturday: Mythical Power, Prairie Meadows Cornhusker

MIKE SMITH (BELMONT, DROSSELMEYER)
Saturday: All Due Respect, Iowa Oaks