- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When he was eight years old, Calvin Borel already was riding match races on the bush tracks of Louisiana, sometimes in front of as many as 100 people. A few years later, after turning professional, he was winning more than 15 races a week … for purses totaling $3,000.

Those memories, along with having his brother in the stands and his late father in his thoughts, are why Borel was standing in the irons pumping his fist yesterday moments before winning a Kentucky Derby worth $2.21 million and watched by 156,635 Churchill Downs spectators. A racing career that began 25 years ago had reached its pinnacle.

“To pass under the wire of the Kentucky Derby in front is the greatest moment of a jockey’s life,” said Borel, still smiling nearly an hour after Street Sense defeated Hard Spun, piloted by Maryland-based jockey Mario Pino, by 21/4 lengths. “I always dreamed about winning this race and the Breeders’ Cup — that’s what every jockey dreams about no matter who you are. You need the owners and trainers to put you on good horses.”

In the winner’s circle, Borel’s brother, Cecil, gave him a hug and they spoke briefly about their father, Clovis, who died three years ago.

“Cecil said, ‘This one’s for Daddy,’ ” Calvin said. “And it is because he’s one that got us here.”

Street Sense got to the wire first with a stunning move during the race’s fifth quarter mile when he passed 14 horses to move into third place. Seconds later, he passed Sedgefield and then Hard Spun with a furlong remaining to improve to 4-for-8 lifetime.

As the post-time favorite, Street Sense paid $11.80 to win, posted a winning time of 2 minutes, 2.17 seconds and became the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to capture the Derby the following spring.

Hard Spun, Curlin, Imawildandcrazyguy and Sedgefield rounded out the top five. The next leg of the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes May 19 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Street Sense’s win overshadowed the giant race by Hard Spun, trained by Derby newbie Larry Jones and ridden by Pino, the 28-year veteran also making his Derby debut.

“[Street Sense trainer] Carl [Nafzger] beats me all the time,” Jones said. “We just got beat by a horse who was better on this track today. Carl is awesome at pointing a horse toward this race.”

Throughout Derby week, Nafzger was second-guessed about his decision to give Street Sense only two 2007 prep races entering the Derby. Most horses are given three and sometimes four races.

But as Street Sense crossed the wire looking like he had gas left in the tank, it was Nafzger who could have laughed after becoming the 16th trainer to win the Derby twice. He led Unbridled to the roses in 1990.

“Nobody can tell what’s going to happen or how it a race will unfold but I was confident because Street Sense has never run a bad race and done everything he was supposed to do,” he said.

But even Nafzger had to be somewhat worried when Street Sense stood 19th after a half-mile and 17th at the race’s halfway point, right?

Nope.

“Calvin has a clock in his head that is unreal,” he said.

Said Borel: “Heading down the backside, I knew they were going pretty quick [22.96 seconds in the opening quarter mile] so I backed him up a little bit. At the 3/8th pole, I started going between horses.”

Rounding the second turn, Street Sense got one break and created another.

Running along the rail, as is Borel’s custom, the horses in front of them started tiring and lugging out of the way instead of into Street Sense’s racing path. Then, Street Sense turned on the jets. He passed 12 horses in a few seconds to get back into the race.

“My horse started making a little run and then Street Sense came blowing through there and it was like a big old wave,” Any Given Saturday jockey Garrett Gomez said.

Street Sense’s final two moves came when Borel steered him off the rail to pass a slowing Sedgefield and then Hard Spun to take the lead with an eighth-of-a-mile remaining.

“I’m really surprised Street Sense got by us because when I asked my horse to go, he really got running,” Pino said.

As happy as Jones and Pino were with Hard Spun’s performance, it’s how disappointed trainer Todd Pletcher was with the finishes of his record-tying five starters, who finished sixth (Circular Quay), eighth (Any Given Saturday), ninth (Sam P), 18th (Scat Daddy) and last (Cowtown Cat). Since making his Derby debut in 2007, Pletcher is 0-for-18.

“Without seeing a replay, I don’t think I could see any major excuses for my horses,” Pletcher said. “I’m not going to tell you I’m not disappointed — I am. But I said this before and I’ll say it again: It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t win the Kentucky Derby.”

Pletcher will send King of the Roxy to the Preakness. Hard Spun is expected to challenge Street Sense again. But for at least two weeks, the nation’s best 2-year old in 2006 is the best 3-year old in 2007.

“Last year, [Nafzger] told me, ‘Jim, we’re going to win the Kentucky Derby,’ ” Street Sense owner/breeder Jim Tafel said. “He made it true today.”

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