The jinx has been broken.
Calvin Borel and Street Sense won the $2.2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) (VIDEO) Saturday, the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner to return at 3 and win the Derby.
Hard Spun, whose jockey Mario Pino controlled the pace beautifully, held on for second, and it was far back to the third-place finisher, Curlin.
It marked the first time since Sunny’s Halo in 1983 that a horse won the Derby with only two prep races at 3. But trainer Carl Nafzger, who won the 1990 Derby with Unbridled, was supremely confident in his handling of the son of Street Cry.
“We have a good horse, he took us every place we’ve been and he took us there every day,” Nafzger said immediately following the race.
Street Sense won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over the same Churchill Downs strip that he won the Derby on. That 10-length victory stamped him the juvenile champion, and in winning the Derby, he became the first 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner to win the Derby since Spectacular Bid won the Run for the Roses in 1979.
Pino, riding in his first Derby, put Hard Spun right on the lead, with Teuflesberg to his outside and Stormello and Cowtown Cat in pursuit. The opening quarter was :22.90. When they had run a half-mile in :46.26, Hard Spun was being tracked by Cowtown Cat, Teuflesberg, and Stormello. An unhurried Street Sense was near the back of the 20-horse field, with only one horse beat.
Pino let the Larry Jones-trained Hard Spun out a notch, and the son of Danzig went six furlongs in 1:11.13 with Cowtown Cat and Teuflesberg still within reach and Sedgefield having moved up to fourth.
As the field moved into the turn for home, Hard Spun was still in front but Borel had been picking off horses and still had a lot of horse left.
“I wanted to save ground,” Borel said. “It was a smooth trip. I knew I had them where I wanted. He has a tremendous turn of foot. He does whatever you want him to.”
What Borel wanted him to do was come off the rail and drive past Hard Spun. The homebred colt did just that, just about the eighth pole. Down the stretch, Street Sense and Hard Spun drew off from the rest of the field, with Street Sense winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Hard Spun finished second, and it was another 5 3/4 lengths back to Curlin. Imawildandcrazyguy was another half-length back in fourth.
The final time was 2:02.17.
Street Sense, who went off the 9-2 favorite, paid $11.80, $6.40, and $4.60. Hard Spun paid $9.80 and $7, and Curlin returned $5.60. The exacta returned $101.80 and the trifecta paid $440.
Kentucky-bred Street Sense is out of the Dixieland Band mare Bedazzle, who is now owned by Darley. The Derby winner was foaled and raised at Drew Nardiello’s Chesapeake Farm.
“He is the best 3-year-old I’ve ever been on in my life. He’s very push-button,” Borel said. “He will put you in a spot you want to be and then relax. I don’t know how good he is.”
While Nafzger had won the Derby, it was the first win in the race for Borel and owner/breeder Jim Tafel.
Nafzger turned over many of his horses last year to his longtime assistant, Ian Wilkes, but he kept training the horses owned by two persons, Tafel and Bentley Smith, who was the son-in-law of Frances Genter, who owned Unbridled.
Tafel had just one previous Derby starter, Vicar, who ran 18th in 1999.
Tafel, 83, is the retired chairman and chief executive of Technical Publishing Co., located near Chicago, and publisher of trade, management, and professional magazines, and also included a division that published educational and consumer books.
Nafzger, 65, is a Texas native who was a former bull rider before turning to training Thoroughbreds. He won the Eclipse Award as champion trainer the year Unbridled won the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
Churchill Downs reported the attendance as 156,635, the third highest in Derby history. Among those watching was England's Queen Elizabeth II.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is still looking for his first Derby winner. He saddled five horses but they finished sixth (Circular Quay), eighth (Any Given Saturday), ninth (Sam P.), 18th (Scat Daddy), and 20th (Cowtown Cat).
The complete order of finish was: Street Sense, Hard Spun, Curlin, Imawildandcrazyguy, Sedgefield, Circular Quay, Tiago, Any Given Saturday, Sam P., Nobiz Like Shobiz, Dominican, Zanjero, Great Hunter, Liquidity, Bwana Bull, Storm in May, Teuflesberg, Scat Daddy, Stormello, and Cowtown Cat.