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For decades Hebert trained racehorses to compete at some of the area's recognized horse racing tracks, such as Evangeline Downs. The bush track on Hebert's farm was a just a sideline business. There were modest entrance fees for men, but women and children could attend for free.
There was typically a "supper" at the barns on Friday night, where the bets were made, followed by racing on Sunday afternoon.
Calvin Borel started to become a household name in racing two years ago, after he rode Street Sense to victory in the Kentucky Derby. He is a magnetic personality, his good humor offsetting some of the grim stories about the darker side of jockey life that have emerged in recent years. The HBO documentary "Jockey" in particular exposed the rampant bulemia and marathon sessions in the sauna as the riders try to ditch pounds to meet the weight requirements.
I only wish my parents were here to see it, but I know they're watching me from above. The little town that produced the little man who is now the biggest name in horse racing sits in the shadow of a levee not far from the Gulf Coast.
Many of the modest houses in Catahoula, La. It's a swampy area; if the lawns weren't so impeccably manicured, it seems likely that some kind of jungle could envelop the whole enterprise.
There are plenty of horses around Catahoula, and plenty of people named Borel. Calvin grew up as the youngest of five brothers. His parents, Clovis and Ella Borel , were almost done raising four boys before Calvin showed up and surprised them.
To this day, Calvin Borel is nicknamed "Boo-Boo" because his conception was considered something of a mistake. His older brothers - Clifton , Clovis, Carol, and Cecil - were teenagers and grown men when Calvin was born. The youngest of them, Cecil, was a jockey on his way to becoming a professional horse trainer. Boo-Boo began riding horses at such a young age that he had to climb on top of a barrel to get aboard them and jump off while they were still running because he lacked the strength to pull them up.
He got seriously injured more than once. In he broke his leg on a bush track. His brother had warned him to be careful - he had a big race in a few weeks - and Calvin disregarded the advice.
Borel credits his brother Cecil for keeping him on the right track during those early years. Calvin says his brother imparted a kind of discipline that counterbalanced the wildness Calvin was exposed to at the bush tracks. An oft-told Calvin story - locals verify it - comes from the time Cecil taught his little brother a lesson about race tactics.
After Calvin had unsuccessfully tried to pass some opponents on the outside, Cecil told his brother to take a horse for a walk around the stables. On every revolution Calvin and the horse made, Cecil expanded the perimeter of the track, widening the orbit Calvin had to make each time he circled the barns.
It forced Calvin to appreciate how much shorter the trip was on the inside of the circle - a lesson that he obviously learned. Most of the photos in the Hebert family's special racing photo album appear to be from the s and s, but Mr. BB claims the bush track culture was well-established even before he was born in the midst of the Great Depression.
That's got to be 90 years ago that it started off. My grandfather on my mother's side had a bush track. A article in the local newspaper, The Abbeville Meridional, traces the first races on the Cajun Downs bush track to the s. There is a good deal more agreement in town that the last races there took place around 10 years ago. By then, judging by the photos and the stories Hebert's family tells, the jockeys weren't local boys but older riders from the recognized tracks, moonlighting for a little extra money.
If his photo album is any indication, the bush track scene was diverse, a mix of races and generations. And yet it was also a small and close-knit community; a bush track horse's owner, trainer, and jockey often all had the same last name - usually a French one.
In the earliest days, Hebert recalls, the bush tracks reflected the poverty of the participants. He remembers "bug boys" the young jockeys riding barefoot, without helmets, and saving up a summer's worth of earnings to buy a bicycle.
I was a jockey on the bush track. I never went on the recognized track. People wanted me to go, but my mommy and daddy wouldn't let me. They didn't care too much for me to ride on the bush track to begin with. Hebert seems to subscribe to the belief that the decline of the bush tracks coincides with the rising affluence of America in general. Back in the old days, he says, local families were putting their little boys on race horses not for recreation but for industry; the jockeys would use their modest wages to put a little extra food on the table.
If you wanted to eat you had to go to work. So the mama would let the kids work to feed the family. Decorated jockey Shane Sellers has a series of photos showing his year-old self beating an year-old Calvin Borel to the line in match races at Cajun Downs. In each picture, a group of three men are eyeballing the finish line to judge which horse won and by how much.
Sellers competed in 14 consecutive Kentucky Derbies before taking a break in Now, at age 42, he is trying to make a comeback. He has the highest praise for his old friend Calvin, pointing to Borel's humility and work ethic.
He recalls the two of them hanging out at Cajun Downs, playing billiards when they were barely tall enough to see the felt on the table. It was in the late s, after turning on the television to watch the great thoroughbred Seattle Slew win the Kentucky Derby, that Sellers decided he wanted to be a jockey.
Welcome To TrackMaster Past Performances TrackMaster Past Performances is for the traditionalist who wants handicapping information in the standard format just like you're used to at the track, but also includes many features not found anywhere else. All the constantly updated, accurate information you need to play the races is right at your fingertips. This product provides the same reliable information you've come to expect in a traditional race program such as post time, race conditions, purse, available wagers, program number, post position, morning line odds, pedigree, owner, jockey, trainer, etc.
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