WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Borel Back In Derby On Denis Of Cork

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - How do you get a horse that's raced his entire career on synthetic tracks ready for the dirt at Churchill Downs?

If you're Bob Black Jack trainer James Kasparoff, you kick sand in his face.

During a training run at Santa Anita earlier this month, Kasparoff ordered his exercise rider to get Bob Black Jack behind a couple of horses while he worked.

"I got him absolutely sprayed with sand," Kasparoff said. "He came back and he had sand everywhere. I kind of felt bad for the horse because he it in his eyes and I had to blow his eyes out and everything. But you know what? These kinds of horses need that experience to toughen them up."

Bob Black Jack, a close second to fast-closing Colonel John during the Santa Anita Derby, certainly looked pretty tough during a five-furlong workout on Monday. He covered the distance in 1:02, not bad for a horse Kasparoff said isn't always focused when he's on the track.

The horse has become so laid back that Kasparoff decided to put blinkers on him so he won't get distracted.

"The only time he needs blinkers is the last eighth of a mile," Kasparoff said. "Last time in the Santa Anita Derby he looked at the starting gate on the side of the track and he was drifting out a bit. It wasn't him getting tired, he wasn't tired."

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BOREL'S BACK: Calvin Borel's chance to become the first jockey to win consecutive Kentucky Derbys 25 years lives on.

When trainer Todd Pletcher decided to take Lexington Stakes winner Behindatthebar out of the Derby and focus on the Preakness, it opened the Derby door for Denis of Cork. Behindatthebar was 17th on the graded-stakes earnings list, which determines who runs in the race if more than 20 are entered. Denis of Cork, which ran fifth in the Illinois Derby, was 21st. The move means Borel has a shot at becoming the first jockey since Eddie Delahoussaye in 1982 and 1983 to win two straight Derbys.

It's been a whirlwind year for the jockey since he rode Street Sense so expertly to victory in the Derby last May. While he'd been preparing for the moment his entire life, he wasn't exactly prepared for what happened next.

Days after the biggest win over his career, Borel found himself being introduced to Queen Elizabeth II at a black-tie dinner at the White House, where he rubbed elbows with Peyton Manning. It was all a bit much for the aw-shucks Louisiana native whose tireless work ethic and thick Cajun drawl have made him a popular fixture on the backside.

"It was something else, it changed my life," Borel said. "A lot of time, a lot of riders don't have patience, you get disgusted. I've been up. I've been down. But I always hung in there."

Though things have largely returned to normal for Borel, he said people's perception of him has changed, even if he hasn't. Never one to turn down a ride, Borel said people seemed surprised during the spring meet at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas when he chose to hop on lesser mounts.

"When I went to Oaklawn, people thought I didn't want to ride cheap horses, but I'll ride anything. I like to win no matter what," Borel said. "You get a little bit better options, winning the Derby, but you can't forget the people from where you come from."

While Borel said Denis of Cork doesn't have the same explosiveness as Street Sense, the good news is Borel doesn't think there's another Street Sense in the field. The 3-year-old colt out of Harlan's Holiday isn't an overwhelming physical specimen, but Borel said the horse has grown considerably since January when Borel guided him to victory in an allowance race at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

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TALKING HEAD: D. Wayne Lukas will miss the Kentucky Derby for the third consecutive year, but the Hall of Fame trainer is still working this week.

He's appearing on WHAS-TV, the local ABC affiliate, in the mornings interviewing trainers who will have horses in the race that Lukas won four times.

"We get so little exposure and it's something we need to do," he said about the opportunity to promote the sport.

Lukas is following in the path of his old friend Bob Knight. The former Texas Tech coach retired in the middle of the season and took a job with ESPN leading up to the NCAA tournament.

"He enjoyed the cast he was thrown in with," said Lukas, whose last starter, Going Wild, finished 18th in 2005.

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HOLLYWOOD ENDING: John and Brad Hennegan weren't looking to become movie moguls when they began filming "The First Saturday in May," an intimate documentary chronicling the road to the 2006 Derby.

Good thing, because while the movie was well-received by critics and horse fans it isn't exactly breaking box office records. The movie has made about $93,000 so far, though John Hennegan was trying to drum up a little more business outside trainer Larry Jones' barn on Monday morning, handing out flyers to people trying to catch a glimpse of filly Eight Belles.

"Where the race tracks were located and where we're really supported, we did fantastic," Hennegan said. "But at the end of the day, we need more help."

The film likely won't be the brothers' last on the subject. Hennegan said they'd like to do a script which he described "Rocky at the track." They hope the documentary will help open some doors along the way.

"We want to prove there's a niche market for horse racing and Hollywood doesn't get it," Hennegan said. "We want to make horse racing cool again ... and we'd like to get paid."

The movie will go on sale on the film's web site www.thefirstsaturdayinmay.com later this week to coincide with this year's Derby.

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AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Louisville, Ky. contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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