HOT SPRINGS, AR (Wednesday, April 29, 2020) – Trainer Cecil Borel has a chance to go out a winner – maybe this time for good – when he sends out 5-2 program favorite K J’s Nobility against 10 scheduled rivals in the $165,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes for state-breds Friday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the 1 1/16 mile Arkansas Breeders’ Championship, which goes as the seventh of 10 races, is 4:06 p.m. (Central). First post Friday, Day 56 of the scheduled 57-day season, is 1:05 p.m.
Borel, 66, has compiled a sparkling 7-0-3 record from 15 starts at the meeting, with Bubbas Dixie (race 4 Friday) and K J’s Nobility the final two horses he’s scheduled to saddle. Two victories belong to K J’s Nobility, a 6-year-old Primary Suspect gelding owned by the trainer’s major client, Carson McCord, 20, of Hot Springs. Borel said he plans to turn over his small stable to his assistant, Renay Borel, after the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship and is unsure if he’ll continue training. Renay Borel is the wife of Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, the regular rider of K J’s Nobility.
“I want to go back home and see my kids and see my grandkids,” Cecil Borel said during training hours Monday morning. “I don’t know if I’ll come back next year. It all depends on how Renay’s doing and if she needs me. She and I are good friends. We’ve been friends a long time. If she needs me, she’ll tell me. If she doesn’t need me, I’ll just stay home.”
Borel, who has a history of heart problems, retired 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 last April. Borel, citing health issues, stepped away from training last fall (Renay Borel recorded her first career victory after inheriting the small string) before returning as the trainer of record for the 2020 Oaklawn meet. Another Arkansas-bred, Flatoutandfoxy, represented Cecil Borel’s seventh meet victory and pocketed $5,600 in bonus money April 24 by winning without Lasix and in open company.
As for K J’s Nobility, he ran a solid third against open allowance company sprinting in his 2020 debut and captured a state-bred allowance sprint Feb. 22 before giving Borel his first stakes victory in more than 10 years with a sharp score in the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ for state-bred sprinters March 28. Now, the gelding stretches out again in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship after finishing second, beaten a half-length by Hoonani Road, in last year’s inaugural running. K J’s Nobility completed major preparations for the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship by working 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 last Saturday morning.
“Worked good, galloped out good, came back good,” Borel said. “No excuse if they beat him. Might be his first race going around two turns, but I think he’s fit enough. He’s had his three races. I would have liked to have had a route race, but sometimes you can’t have everything you want. I worked him seven-eighths of a mile and came back and worked him five-eighths of a mile and I think he’s tight enough. I ain’t going to say he’s going to win, but I ain’t going to say he’s going to get beat, either.”
K J’s Nobility is scheduled to break from post 3 under equal top weight of 124 pounds. The competition includes familiar names like Bandit Point, Glacken’s Ghost and J.E.’s Handmedown, third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in last year’s Arkansas Breeders’ Championship.
Borel said he believes K J’s Nobility will be turned out following Friday’s race and the hope is another one of his five horses will be sent to a smaller track. Borel said he’ll remain at Oaklawn as long as possible to help Renay Borel in the transition before heading to Lake Fork Reservoir, about 70 miles east of Dallas. It’s billed the premier trophy largemouth bass lake in Texas,
Cecil Borel, an avid outdoorsman, said he and his late wife purchased property there in 2003 through proceeds from selling Watchem Smokey to prominent California owner Edmund Gann after the colt won his first six career starts, including two at Oaklawn. Watchem Smokey became a Grade 3 winner two starts later in Southern California for Bobby Frankel, the late Hall of Fame trainer.
“I ain’t turning it loose until the day I die,” Borel said of the property.
A former jockey, Borel has 730 victories from 4,490 career starts since 1979, with purse earnings of $8,987,052, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Borel has 113 career victories at Oaklawn, the first coming in 1989 with Twice Around in the $100,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G2) for older horses. Borel has nine career Oaklawn stakes victories. Prior to K J’s Nobility, Borel’s last stakes victory had come $50,000 King Cotton for older sprinters in 2010 (Cosmic).
The Arkansas Breeders’ Championship field from the rail out: Promising Shoes, Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride, 118 pounds, 5-1 on the morning line; Souixper Charger, Martin Garcia, 121, 8-1; K J’s Nobility, Calvin Borel, 124, 5-2; Hamazing Vision, Tyler Baze, 124, 9-2; Prospector Fever, Miguel Mena, 115, 8-1; J.E.’s Handmedown, Stewart Elliott, 118, 15-1; Destiny Way, Joe Talamo, 124, 20-1; Heritage Park, Alex Birzer, 124, 20-1; Bandit Point, Kelsi Harr, 124, 10-1; Glacken’s Ghost, David Cohen, 118, 15-1; and Man in the Can, Joel Rosario, 118, 6-1.
Promising Shoes and Prospector Fever were supplementary nominees. Destiny Way is a half-brother to Hoonani Road.