LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They don’t call him Bo-rail for nothing.
Calvin Borel grabbed the rail and didn’t let go Saturday, sloshing through the slop on another flawless ride to win his third Kentucky Derby in four years.
The most wide-open Derby in years ended with a sure thing — Borel crossing the finish line and punching the air with this right fist, this time raising it toward a leaden sky.
The jockey’s magic touch on his home track gave trainer Todd Pletcher his first Derby victory after 24 failures.
“Calvin Borel is a great rider anywhere he goes, but at Churchill Downs he’s even five lengths better,” Pletcher said. “He knows how to ride this track and gets along with his colt beautifully.”
Borel’s ride nearly duplicated the one he turned in last year aboard 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, except he and Super Saver went off at lower odds and were never in last place.
He was confident enough in his colt and his knowledge of the track to take him off the lead in the early going of the 1¼-mile race. In all but one of his six previous races, Super Saver had never been farther back than second in the early stages.
Borel knew that strategy wouldn’t work in a 20-horse Derby field on a tiring, sloppy track that had been pelted by heavy rain early in the day. Breaking from the No. 4 post, he immediately tucked his colt along the rail — a predictable move considering his nickname — and there they stayed almost the entire way.
Super Saver was timed in 2:04.45 as the 8-1 second-choice behind favorite Lookin At Lucky, whose 6-1 odds tied Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 for the longest priced favorite in 136 runnings. He paid $18, $8.80 and $6.
Pletcher let out a whoop and slapped his hands together after his colt crossed the finish line, snapping a skid the Eclipse Award-winning trainer was eager to end.
He seemed to have a lock on his first Derby win until expected favorite Eskendereya was withdrawn last weekend with a swollen leg. That left Pletcher with four horses in the race, but none as highly regarded.
His other finishers were: Mission Impazible, ninth; filly Devil May Care, 10th; and Discreetly Mine, 13th.
Pletcher’s only other Triple Crown race victory was in 2007 at Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches. The lack of a Derby win by the 42-year-old former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas was the most glaring omission on his resume and something he was constantly asked about.
It wasn’t for lack of trying.
In 2007, he saddled five in the Derby, with none finishing higher than sixth.
“It’s the one thing that was important to me,” he said. “The one thing I wanted to do while my parents were still here to see it.”
Borel is the first jockey to win three derbies in four years; Bill Hartack won three in five years from 1960-64.
“Calvin Borel is amazing. He is fearless,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He takes control of the race, and you have to give him a lot of credit. He’s a great rider.”
Baffert should know. He thought he had his fourth Derby victory in the bag last year until front-running Pioneerof the Nile was overtaken in the stretch by Borel and Mine That Bird.
Baffert’s Lookin At Lucky wound up sixth, clearly compromised by starting on the rail. His other colt, Conveyance, finished 15th after setting the pace for more than three-quarters of a mile.
Trained by Nick Zito, Ice Box returned $11.20 and $8 after nipping Paddy O’Prado at the wire for second. Paddy O’Prado paid $7.40 to show.
The crowd of 155,804 sought shelter early on from the rain, which had stopped by post time, with sun breaking through the clouds.
Make Music for Me was fourth, followed by Noble’s Promise, Lookin At Lucky, Dublin, Stately Victor, Mission Impazible, Devil May Care, American Lion and Jackson Bend.
Discreetly Mine was 13th, followed by Dean’s Kitten, Conveyance, Homeboykris, Sidney’s Candy, Line of David, Awesome Act and Backtalk.