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It’s a juvenile haul by Street Sense in Derby

Times Staff Writer

This time, the owner beside Carl Nafzger could see his horse win the Kentucky Derby with his own eyes.

It was 17 years ago that Nafzger, the trainer of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled, called the stretch run for 92-year-old owner Frances Genter’s weakened eyes, shouting “He’s gonna win! He’s gonna win! ... He won the Kentucky Derby. Oh, Mrs. Genter, I love you!”

As Street Sense barreled down the lane to win the 133rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday after running past 18 other horses, Nafzger and 83-year-old owner James Tafel knew exactly what they were seeing. Calvin Borel guided Street Sense off the rail, split two foes and went around Hard Spun, the last horse in front of him.

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“When I saw him make a move and get clear, I said, ‘We’re clear, we’re clear! It’s up to him now. It’s all his now,’ ” said Nafzger, who is semi-retired at 65 but still trains for his old friend and one other client.

Nafzger became the 18th trainer to win the Derby for a second time, and his horse did it in front of a crowd of 156,635 that included Queen Elizabeth II, who witnessed her first Derby on a day when threatened rains held off.

Street Sense, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 10 lengths on the same Churchill Downs track last November, took the Derby by 2 1/4 lengths and ended a jinx, becoming the first BC Juvenile winner to go on to win the Derby.

The dark bay son of Street Cry covered the 1 1/4 -mile distance in 2:02.17 and became only the third betting favorite to win since Spectacular Bid in 1979. The others were Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 and Smarty Jones in 2004.

The victory paid $11.80. Hard Spun was second and Curlin, the morning-line favorite, was third.

A racing jinx was broken, but another took stronger hold as trainer Todd Pletcher -- with a record-tying five horses in the race -- finished no better than sixth with Circular Quay, leaving him 0 for 19 in the Derby.

Nafzger and Tafel can thank Borel, a Cajun jockey from St. Martinville, La., who still mucks stalls and hardly speaks the Queen’s English, for their victory.

Borel, 40, started riding horses on his father’s sugar-cane farm before he was in school and was riding Sunday match races when he was 8 before beginning his career as an apprentice rider at 16.

Saturday’s was his fifth Derby, and his first victory.

“Mr. Carl been so loyal. I rode for Carl a long time,” said Borel, who still helps out with chores in the barn of the trainer who got him started, his older brother Cecil.

It was Cecil who taught his fence-hugging brother that the rail is the shortest way around the track.

“He was probably about 16 years old, and he rode a horse for me and he went about five or six wide,” said Cecil, who is 13 years older. “When he came back, we made him walk the horse instead of the hot walker. When he made about three rounds, I took a big ol’ barrel, and I put it in the corner. He had to go around the barrel about three times, and about the fourth time he hollered at me, ‘Why you got the barrel there?’ And I said, ‘It’s a little bit further than going on the inside.

“Next time I took it out and he passed on the inside, and that’s when he started that.”

The affinity is so strong Borel earned the nickname “Bo-Rail.” He used the rail Saturday much as he did for the Breeders’ Cup win. “It was wide open. The horses were getting tired. They were starting to drift out,” Borel said.

At the decisive moment, though, he took Street Sense wide.

“No sir, he wasn’t on the rail the whole way. I went around some horses,” Borel said.

Hard Spun led from the first quarter mile until Street Sense -- 19th after a half-mile -- overtook him in the stretch, just inside the eighth-pole en route to his fourth win in eight races.

“We thought we had a shot,” said Larry Jones, Hard Spun’s trainer. “Calvin just went by us.”

Garrett Gomez finished eighth aboard Any Given Saturday after being fourth at the top of the stretch.

“Street Sense came blowing through there and it was like a big old wave,” Gomez said.

Tiago, the Santa Anita Derby winner who is a half-brother of 2005 Derby winner Giacomo, was seventh.

“If he had more experience ... I don’t know if we would have beaten the winner, but look at the gallop out,” jockey Mike Smith said. “Ten jumps past the wire, he was in front, and he couldn’t do that in the race.”

Great Hunter and Liquidity, both trained by Doug O’Neill and owned by J. Paul Reddam of Sunset Beach, were 13th and 14th.

“My horse wasn’t handling the track at all,” said Corey Nakatani, who rode Great Hunter. “The winner handled the track, and the rest of them were struggling. That’s about the story.”

That and Borel, who still likes to fish, eat crawfish and work in his yard despite having ridden horses with career earnings of more than $83 million. “He deserves it. He worked real hard,” his brother said. “He’s just got a lot of heart. Nice horse, too.”

Nafzger, who wrote a book on training after Unbridled’s Derby victory titled, “Traits of a Winner: The Formula for Developing Thoroughbred Racehorses,” figures he has another chapter now.

As long as his last two clients, Tafel and Bentley Smith, want to keep racing, he’ll keep training the 10 or 12 horses they own.

But no, Nafzger didn’t profess his love to Tafel the way he did to Mrs. Genter all those years ago.

“Truthfully, he already knows it,” Nafzger said.

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robyn.norwood@latimes.com

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Begin text of infobox

Make that 0 for 19

Todd Pletcher was the third trainer to saddle five horses in a single Derby. Pletcher’s horses:

Circular Quay .... sixth

Any Given Saturday .... eighth

Sam P. .... ninth

Scat Daddy .... 18th

Cowtown Cat .... 20th

*

Start to finish

How the race was run:

* STREET SENSE -- Reserved immediately after the start as the field came away in good order, relaxed nicely, reached the rail before going a furlong and settled well off the pace, began picking up horses approaching the far turn, got through cleanly inside, split foes two or three wide at the quarter-mile ground, moved three wide to go after pacesetting Hard Spun, took over, opened a clear advantage at the furlong grounds when roused sharply left-handed, then, with the rider glancing back and changing hands with the stick, continued resolutely.

* HARD SPUN -- Worked his way in two wide to vie for the lead early, gained the lead soon after going a quarter-mile while racing in hand, edged clear entering the backstretch while carefully handled, increased his advantage to be well clear into the upper stretch, bobbled leaving the eighth pole, angled outside of Street Sense in the late going and wasn’t a match for that one as second best.

* CURLIN --Steadied lightly during the opening eighth while between rivals near the inside, was unhurried to the end of the backstretch between horses, continued between rivals when advancing into the stretch, made a bold run five wide approaching the final furlong but couldn’t threaten the top two.

* IMAWILDANDCRAZYGUY -- Moved between rivals approaching the final quarter, swung out 10 wide entering the stretch and made up some ground.

OTHERS

SEDGEFIELD -- Forwardly placed near the inside from the outset, raced within easy striking distance and came up empty; CIRCULAR QUAY -- Followed the pace five or six wide from early on, bumped for a stride with Stormello, then improved position slightly while not a threat. TIAGO -- Outrun five wide to the far turn, rallied along the rail approaching the stretch, continued three abreast when straightened for the drive and passed tired rivals. ANY GIVEN SATURDAY -- Never far back and between foes four wide, made an earnest run approaching the final quarter but flattened. SAM P. -- Unhurried for a half, made mild move six wide approaching the stretch but failed to continue. NOBIZ LIKE SHOWBIZ -- Well placed while tracking the leaders from between horses, moved menacingly approaching the final quarter but faltered. DOMINICAN -- In contention while six or seven wide, was bumped early on the second turn by Great Hunter and was finished nearing the stretch. ZANJERO -- Advanced steadily between calls on the far turn, had to steady when lacking room, was with the winner while outside that one, steadied again before the quarter-pole and had no further response. GREAT HUNTER -- Made a solid run approaching the stretch but failed to continue. LIQUIDITY -- In contention five or six wide, bumped for a stride with Great Hunter early on the far turn and flattened out in the drive. BWANA BULL -- Between horses four or five wide much of the way, never reached contention. STORM IN MAY -- Outrun near the inside to the stretch, angled out five or six wide but never reached contention. TEUFLESBERG -- Up close between horses four wide, weakened steadily approaching the stretch. SCAT DADDY -- Raced between rivals four or five wide and tired approaching the stretch. STORMELLO -- Was bumped for stride with Circular Quay approaching the stretch and faded. COWTOWN CAT -- Up close between horses early, was finished leaving the backstretch.

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Source: Equibase

Los Angeles Times


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