My assignment: write an insider’s guide to Louisville and share go-to places from four local celebs. It’s for The Wall Street Journal’s travel section in its 2011 Derby weekend issue (upon landing the gig, I’m strutting like a 1-5 favorite named BigF’ingDeal). Calvin Borel’s vying for his third straight Derby win; my editor agrees; his hot spots are an ideal get.
Jerry Hissam, Borel’s agent of 20 years, politely tells me by phone his client has no insight to share; he spends all his time at the track. When pressed, Hissam backtracks a little though—Borel likes to wash his truck. I persist and Hissam schedules a meeting after the next morning’s workouts.
That night I scour the Internet for Borel’s pursuits beyond being first to the finish line. Churchill Downs’s backside is cold, dark and wet when I arrive at 7 a.m. It’s an atmosphere ripe for hot soup, and I, Zach Everson, Wall Street Journal, am ready to spoon-feed the jockey a dozen suggestions of local venues seemingly relevant to his interests.
In about as much time as it took the Cajun to win the previous Derby aboard Super Saver, Borel—as courteous as you read about—proves his agent right: Louisville has no zydeco dancing spot; he only hunts and fishes in the off season, out of state; he orders his racing gear by mail; the photo of him kayaking is from his one time on the water; his wife added any interest his Facebook profile mentions.
The sole restaurant Borel suggests? It’s been closed for at least a year.
Calvin Borel spends all his time at the track.
Photo: Zach Everson