Derby 135: A blend of Borel, a horse and divine providence

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By Bob Watkins

50-to-1 shot ridden by a little dude from Catahoula, Louisiana, who looks like a hot walker, talks like a cajun and reacted to his double-dip weekend like a kid at Christmas instead of a 43-year-old who’s saddled up for 25 years.

We loved it too for Calvin Borel. Particularly those few with a ticket on Mine That Bird, $103.20.

Derby 135 exposed again the experts too. One wrote Mine That Bird would not win because “no horse from New Mexico has ever won the Derby.”

Such logic taken seriously, means any promising three-year-old from here to Dubai where sand grows, might as well stay home.

That ex-rodeo rider turned trainer Chip Woolley, drove 16 hours to Louisville and hired Borel to ride, we are delighted too because Saturday’s run for the roses was another blend of ride, rider and divine providence come together at about the 16th pole.

That’s where Borel kept to the rail while a threesome ahead began what they believed was their charge to the finish. Instead, Borel tapped Mine That Bird into after-burn ... the race was over and the Borel Show began.

The animative little jockey, who took Rachel Alexandra to a yoke of flowers in the Oaks on Friday, turned photographer’s delight. Borel waved his helmet, shouted and gestured his way to the winner’s circle.

We loved it ... for a big-heart horse that was stunning at a mile and a quarter.

We loved it for a savvy jockey who knew his mount, where to be and when.

And we loved it for every bettor who had nerve to buy a ticket on the hoss in post position eight.


Imagine a mahogany plaque with bronze plate and images at the top of Captain Richard Phillips on bridge of a ship and Captain Chesley Sullenberger on bridge of a jet liner. Space below to engrave names of those in Kentucky sports who inspire, pay it forward.

A Captain’s List for Kentucky.

Were it reality, this week I would put these names up:

• Cindy Birrell, Princeton. A cancer survivor, she completed the 6.5-mile Kentucky Derby mini-marathon in Louisville April 25. One year ago almost to the day, Birrell was undergoing intensive treatments at Vanderbilt Hospital for Stage 4 melanoma. Today, she is diagnosed cancer free.

Her six-and-half mile run is an inspiration of courage to fight back, never give up.

Her effort moved one newspaper columnist to write, “... (this) is remarkable in anybody’s book. Especially her dad’s.”

Cindy Hutcheson-Birrell is daughter of Princeton Times-Leader publisher-columnist Chip Hutcheson.

• Jasmine Hall, Phelps High School and Will Barnes of Caldwell County were honored for outstanding sportsmanship in Kentucky. Got them a $3,000 college scholarship and $200 for books each from the Forcht Group of Kentucky.

Criteria? Grade point average, leadership at school and community and letters of recommendation. Reward for pursuit of higher goals while enjoying sports.

Footnote: These qualifications should apply to candidates for Mr. and Miss Basketball, Football and the rest.

The Captains List - Cindy Birrell, Jasmine Hall and Will Barnes.

COMMENT: If you have a nominee for The Captains List, e-mail bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com


Q. “... what do you mean by University of Kentucky-at-Euclid? Those who live in western Kentucky, sometimes find ourselves unfamiliar with Lexington lingo. Is Euclid a street or something?”

Answer: Euclid Avenue, or, Avenue of Champions, runs through the UK campus. One side of Euclid features classroom buildings, the Library, College of Agriculture, Albert B. Chandler Medical Center and other sanctuaries of academic endeavor. On Euclid’s opposite flank - Memorial Coliseum, the Craft Center, Wildcat Lodge and administrative offices for athletics.

President Lee Todd and others are fond of saying UK basketball pays its own way. Is separate. His point is affirmed by the university’s budget process. Professors, instructors and staff are in pay freeze, student tuition is up 14 per cent in three years and UK faces another fiscal shortfall in our nation’s most trying economic time since the Great Depression.

The other side of Euclid Avenue? Ex-ball coach Billy Clyde Gillispie may cost University of Kentucky-at-Euclid $6 million. John Calipari will cost 31 million over eight years. His assistants, six figure pay each. And, starting with a $50,000 bonus for the head coach, the assistants may receive five-figure bonuses if 50 per cent of scholarship players earn a degree.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Todd’s brag about basketball’s separateness and common sense, makes it clear there are two universities at UK. One educates young people, although the gap between who can afford UK and can’t, widens. And, University of Kentucky-at-Euclid is a farm for NBA prospects.

Postscript. The explanation brought another e-mail that read in part,“... now I don’t feel so stupid about the REAL geography of Lexington.”

Q. I thought Jodie Meeks’ 54-point tee-shirt was for players and staff only? They went on the market last week.

A. For players and staff only was part of UK-At-Euclid’s latest merchandising ploy. Cashin’ In On Jodie required a little giddy-up before Meeks decides on the NBA. Irony? Young man who made it possible won’t pocket a dime.


With Meeks and Patrick Patterson in mind, and emphasis on why college is a time of life not to be squandered, consider Texas Christian player Possum Elenberg. Before kickoff at the 1957 Cotton Bowl. “...all your life people tell you it’s just a game, that so many things more important will happen to you in life that’ll make sports seem insignificant. But it’s not true. I’m fixing to be tested in this moment, and I’m gonna be tested again and again in my life, and I’m gonna get nervous and wonder about myself every single time.

“Your priorities as a kid are just as important to you as your priorities as a 60-year-old man, because all your aspirations and goals are on the line. At any age, each thing that’s important to you .. is important to you.”

And so it goes.

You can reach bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com