Hall of Famer Borel Talks ‘50 to 1,’ Mine that Bird and Kentucky Derby

Pop Culture

As Kentucky Derby fever mounts, relive one of the most amazing wins in the history of the race. On April 28, the movie “50 to 1,” the story of Mine That Bird, comes to DVD and digital HD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

There’s a lot to love in the story of Mine That Bird. His misfit New Mexico cowboy connections overcame dramatic obstacles to get to him in the winner’s circle in 2009. It is an intriguing story to both casual fans and racing enthusiasts.

“50 to 1” was a labor of love for Jim Wilson, who experienced great success as the producer of “The Bodyguard,” “Wyatt Earp” and “Dances with Wolves” (which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture).

Wilson also owns racehorses. He wanted to merge two loves and produce a racing story, and he found it as he watched the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Wilson wrote, produced and directed “50 to 1” and raised the money to get it into production.


Wilson approached jockey Calvin Borel about playing himself in the movie.

Borel was interested, so he, his wife, Lisa, and his agent read the script and quite a few revisions. Filming began in September 2012.

Even though Borel doesn’t appear until the final third of the movie, he devoted significant time to the project and carefully balanced riding and filming.

“I took off in the summer four or five days since I was still trying to ride a few horses here and there,” Borel said. “This went on for two years. Going all over the country trying to get the shots. We got it done this way.”

The last five days were particularly intense, with filming beginning at 5 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m.

“Jim was so awesome to me. He let me do what I wanted to do,” Borel said. “I loved all the people I played with. They were so nice and took my hand and walked me through it. I had a good time.”

Borel said “50 to 1” is accurate. 


“It’s real,” he said. “That’s what I love about the movie. I think that’s what everyone loves about it.”

As an aficionado, I was anxious to see Borel play himself.

I was a Borel fan before he won the Kentucky Derby three times in four years, before he was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and before he gained milestone win 5,000 at my home track, Oaklawn Park. Borel is revered there and elsewhere. He is personable and modest. Because I like him so much, I was a little nervous for Borel. He had never acted before. He speaks with a heavy Cajun accent. He received little formal education. I held my breath and hoped Borel would do OK on camera.

Borel’s performance was one of the biggest delights of the movie. He was fantastic. My worry was wasted on him.

The movie incorporated many of the details I know and love about Borel and Mine That Bird.

One of the reasons Borel was chosen to ride Mine That Bird is he had experience excelling with a longshot. He won the 2006 Stephen Foster Handicap on 91.70-to-1 Seek Gold, a horse owned by my friends Ted Bowman and Kristi Couch. Another reason he was chosen is because he won the 2007 Kentucky Derby on Street Sense.

“That was the best moment of life,” Borel said. “There will never be another one like that.”

Success was not coming as easily in 2009.

“I went through so many horses that year, five or six horses,” Borel said. “Then we found Mine That Bird.

“When I worked him, I worked him like they did at Woodbine,” Borel said, referring to the Canadian track where Mine That Bird had won four straight races as a 2-year-old, which were his only wins prior to the Kentucky Derby. “Really and truly, he shouldn’t have been 50 to 1.”


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Predictably, Borel said his favorite scene in the film is the race and the view of Mine That Bird after he crosses the finish line.

Mine That Bird’s $103.20 payout for a $2 bet was the second largest in Kentucky Derby history behind only Donerail, who paid $184.90 in 1913.

The day before winning with Mine That Bird, Borel won the Kentucky Oaks with Rachel Alexandra. Both horses were entered in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, and Borel made the decision to ride the filly.

“That was the longest two weeks of my life,” Borel said.

When the raceday finally arrived, Rachel Alexandra and Borel won the Preakness with Mine That Bird and Mike Smith closing for second.

“Mine That Bird came back. He wasn’t a fluke,” Borel said.

In the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the triple crown, Mine That Bird and Borel teamed up again and finished third.

Borel won his third Kentucky Derby the next year aboard Super Saver. He rides El Kabier on Saturday and will attempt to gain his fourth Kentucky Derby victory.

“El Kabier gives you 110%. He’s doing good. He’s a nice a colt,” Borel said. “We’ll need luck and hope the good Lord helps.”

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