HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—Less than a week after teaming for their first Oaklawn victory, Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel and his wife, trainer Renay Borel, seek their first in a stake in Saturday’s $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ for Arkansas-bred colts and geldings, 3 and up, at 6 furlongs.
Renay Borel is scheduled to send out two horses, including defending champion K J’s Nobility in the Nodouble, which honors the 1968 Arkansas Derby winner, the country’s two-time champion older horse (1969 and 1970) and leading Arkansas-bred money winner in history ($846,749).
Last Sunday, Calvin Borel recorded his first victory of the meeting, and first for his wife in Hot Springs, aboard Jack Van Berg. Renay Borel, a former exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, inherited a small string of horses after Calvin Borel’s older brother, Cecil, retired – again – from training following a runner-up finish by K J’s Nobility in the $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes last May at Oaklawn. Renay Borel had been Cecil Borel’s assistant. Jack Van Berg was her second victory of the meeting and fourth overall.
“Everything’s going good,” Renay Borel, 33, said Wednesday morning. “Take it one day at a time.”
Owned by Carson McCord of Hot Springs, K J’s Nobility will break from the rail Saturday in search of his first victory since last year’s Nodouble. The 7-year-old gelding exits a flat fifth-place finish as the favorite in a March 12 state-bred allowance sprint under Calvin Borel, his regular rider.
“I think it was because of the freeze,” Renay Borel said, referring to Oaklawn losing 11 days of training (Feb. 12-22) to severe winter weather. “I think the freeze had a lot to do with it. It kind of set us back a little bit. I kind of look at that race more as a little tune-up race, more than anything. So, if everything goes according to plan, I believe he’ll be tough, regardless. It doesn’t matter what post position he’s in.”
Claimed by McCord for $25,000 in July 2018 at Indiana Grand, K J’s Nobility has bankrolled $451,354 in a 33-race career.
Renay Borel is also scheduled to send out her first career Oaklawn winner, Bebop Shoes, for McCord in the Nodouble. Bebop Shoes was a sharp March 7 state-bred allowance winner in his last start.
“It’s up to the owner whether she wants to run him in the Nodouble or not,” Renay Borel said. “Personally, I believe he fits. He’s doing really good; training like a beast. We’ll see.”
Renay Borel has never had a stakes starter since saddling her first horse in the fall of 2019.
Calvin Borel has 52 career Oaklawn stakes victories and Jack Van Berg marked his 971st victory overall in Hot Springs. He was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001. Pat Day (a record 1,264) and Larry Snyder are the only riders in Oaklawn history with 1,000 career victories.
“We’re going to try like hell,” Calvin Borel, 54, said with a laugh when asked about reaching 1,000. “Taking it day by day.”
As for Cecil Borel, the remaining members of Team Borel said he’s living on Lake Fork Reservoir, about 70 miles east of Dallas. It’s billed the premier trophy largemouth bass lake in Texas.
Cecil Borel, who has a history of heart problems, initially retired from training in August 2014 to care for his ailing wife, Debbie, a former Oaklawn racing official who died Jan. 1, 2015. Borel came out of retirement at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting, recording his first victory in approximately 4 ½ years with K J’s Nobility in a state-bred allowance sprint that April.
Borel, citing health issues, stepped away from training in the fall of 2019 (Renay Borel recorded her first career victory after inheriting his handful of runners) before returning as the trainer of record for the 2020 Oaklawn meet. Borel was 66 when he saddled K J’s Nobility in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes.
“I don’t know if there will be another comeback,” Renay Borel said. “You’ll have to get ahold of him and ask him if that’s what he wants to do right now. I believe he’s having fun fishing.”
Known as an exhaustive caretaker, Cecil Borel authored a sparkling 7-2-3 record from just 17 starters last year at Oaklawn. Renay Borel has six horses at Oaklawn and is off to a solid start in 2021, with two victories and a third from nine starts at the meeting through Sunday.
“I learned everything from him,” Renay Borel said. “I try to keep my schedule the same as what he would do. You don’t fix something that’s not broke.”
The projected nine-horse Nodouble field from the rail out:
1. K J’s Nobility, Calvin Borel to ride, 118 pounds, 7-2
2. Captain Don, Walter De La Cruz, 118, 5-1
3. Glacken’s Ghost, Alex Canchari, 123, 10-1
4. Tempt Fate, Joe Talamo, 123, 5-2
5. Bebop Shoes, Elvin Gonzalez, 123, 6-
6. Reef’s Destiny, David Cohen, 118, 15-1
7. J. E.’s Handmedown, Francisco Arrieta, 115, 10-1
8. Man in the Can, David Cabrera, 118, 9-2
9. Bandit Point, Kelsi Harr, 118, 6-1
Probable post time for the Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes, the 10th of 11 races, is 5:52 p.m. (Central). Racing begins Saturday at 1 p.m. Weather permitting, the infield will be open.
Trainer Robertino Diodoro said Oaklawn-based Keepmeinmind could return to the work tab Friday morning and remains under consideration for the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 3 at Keeneland and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 10 at Oaklawn. Keepmeinmind, in his 3-year-old debut, finished sixth in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) March 13 at Oaklawn. … Six Oaklawn-raced horses were among 23 initial individual betting interests in the fifth and final Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Big Lake, who ran third in the Rebel, has been scratched because of an injury that has eliminated him from Kentucky Derby consideration, according to Churchill Downs. Oaklawn-raced horses still in the pool are Caddo River (30-1) for trainer Brad Cox, Concert Tour (9-2) for Bob Baffert, unbeaten Eclipse Award winner Essential Quality (3-1 favorite) for Cox, Hozier (30-1) for Baffert and Spielberg (50-1) for Baffert. Caddo River won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 22 at Oaklawn. Essential Quality won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 27 at Oaklawn. Concert Tour remained unbeaten in three starts with a front-running victory in the Rebel. Hozier and Spielberg ran second in the Rebel and Southwest, respectively. Wagering begins at 11 a.m. (Central) Friday and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday. … Spielberg is entered in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park. … Through Sunday, Day 27 of the 51-day Oaklawn meeting, 267 claims had totaled $5 million. … Champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Midnight Bisou is reportedly in foal to champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Curlin.
Oaklawn Park Press Release
Photo: Jack Van Berg and Team Borel, (Coady)