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Horse sense and sales sense

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Watching jockey Calvin Borel win his third Kentucky Derby last Saturday was about as exciting as two minutes can be. Thinking about the race as a sales metaphor isn’t nearly as exciting, but it is instructive.

Borel had done his homework and according to Super Saver’s trainer Todd Pletcher (whose record IN the Derby was 0-24 before Saturday’s race), “I don’t think I’ve ever had a jockey come to the paddock more focused. He was in the zone.” But focus wasn’t the only skill the Louisiana native had going for him.

Before the race even began, circumstances and challenges presented themselves. Eskendereya, another of Pletcher’s horses and the early Derby favorite, scratched due to an ankle injury. The relentless rain turned the track into mush, which favors different horses than a dry track and thus inevitably changes the dynamics and the jockey’s race strategy.

Amazingly, just before post time the rain stopped and the sun shined on Churchill Downs. I don’t think any of that mattered to Calvin Borel. He had done his homework and he knew his horse. He staked out his usual position at the rail – a place most other riders avoid – and he ran the race according to his strategy. In racing parlance, he “left room” and didn’t feel the need to obliterate the competition right out of the gate.

When the time was right, Borel confidently made his move. He had overcome a changing field of competitors, an environment that wasn’t what he originally expected and he had adapted his strategy without abandoning his core belief. He closed the case. That may be horse sense, but it sure makes good sales sense, too.

Check out more blog entries from David Saltzman.