04/21/2008 11:00PM

Borel hopes for shot at Derby repeat

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Denis of Cork and jockey Calvin Borel need some defections to make the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Calvin Borel is on the outside looking in - although not in the way he once did.

Borel will only ride in the 134th Kentucky Derby if his scheduled mount, Denis of Cork, can crack the top 20 by graded earnings. And a little more than a week before entries are to be taken for the May 3 Derby, the field was still in flux, with Denis of Cork right on the earnings bubble.

For Borel, getting another Derby ride would be nice, but after winning the race last year aboard Street Sense, it's all gravy from here. For years, before Hall of Fame jockeys such as Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Jerry Bailey, and Gary Stevens retired, Borel frequently was relegated to the sidelines at Derby time. Before Street Sense, Borel had ridden in the Derby just four times in his 25-year career, finishing no better than eighth.

"Last year was a dream come true," said Borel, 41. "To this day, I still get letters or thank-you notes, pictures to sign, stuff like that. I guess winning the Derby stays with you the rest of your life. It's awesome."

If Denis of Cork makes the race, Borel likely would be one of just four jockeys in this Derby who already has won the race, the others being Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, and Mike Smith. In fact, there has been so much turnover in recent years among the top jockeys in America that only three other Derby-winning jockeys are still active today: Stewart Elliott, Victor Espinoza, and Jorge Chavez.

Borel has said countless times that everything came together perfectly for him and Street Sense, both leading up to and during the Derby, and he smiled Tuesday when saying that the experience was so surreal and enjoyable that "I sure wouldn't mind doing it all over again."

To do so, a lot of dominoes will have to fall the right way. Daily Racing Form counts Denis of Cork as No. 23 on the graded-earnings list, but ahead of him are several horses that ultimately might defect by the time entries are taken April 30, most notably Proud Spell, Eight Belles, Salute the Sarge, and Behindatthebar. Denis of Cork, owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Warren and trained by David Carroll, clearly could have avoided the bubble situation by faring better in his last Derby prep, the April 5 Illinois Derby, but the colt finished fifth as the even-money favorite under Julien Leparoux.

Borel rode Denis of Cork in the colt's first two races, a maiden victory in November at Churchill and a January allowance at the Fair Grounds, then took off the colt in the Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park to ride Turf War, who wound up ninth as the favorite. Denis of Cork won the Southwest under Robby Albarado.

Borel said he has "no idea" why Denis of Cork didn't run better in his fourth start, the Illinois Derby, but the jockey said he was "real impressed" when aboard Monday at Churchill for a five-furlong workout in 1:00.

"He went pretty quick, and he still finished up for me," Borel said. "I thought he went beautiful. I've always liked this colt from day one. Time will tell, but I think he's the real deal."

Still, Borel realizes how difficult it will be to become the first jockey since Eddie Delahoussaye (1982-83) to repeat in the Derby.

"It'll take something unbelievable to do it again," he said.

Pletcher waiting on decision

The NTRA rounded up five trainers Tuesday to be on its final national teleconference before the Derby: Todd Pletcher, Rick Dutrow, Louie Roussel, Steve Asmussen, and Eoin Harty.

Pletcher remained noncommittal about whether Behindatthebar, winner of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes last weekend, will be entered.

"Any time you have a horse win a major prep, you have to think these things through carefully," he said. "He's had his normal three days off after a race, and he's happy and has a high energy level. But I need to see him train for a few days before we make a decision."

Dutrow, the trainer of likely Derby favorite Big Brown, was asked how the defection of the speedy War Pass from the Derby might affect the chances of Big Brown, another speed horse. War Pass was declared out of the Derby last weekend with a minor injury.

"Maybe it makes it a little bit easier," Dutrow said. "It depends on what would've happened in the first part of the race . . . but I am kind of glad he's out of the picture."

Tale of Ekati work delayed

Trainer Barclay Tagg delayed a workout for the Wood Memorial winner Tale of Ekati by one day, when electing to send only Big Truck to the Keeneland Polytrack for a Tuesday workout.

Big Truck went a half-mile in 48.80 seconds in one of just two Tuesday works for Derby horses who clearly have made it past the 20-horse cutoff. The other Tuesday worker, Visionaire, also breezed a half-mile at Keeneland, going in 49.60 seconds with regular rider Jose Lezcano up.

Both Tagg and Michael Matz, trainer of Visionaire, described the moves as maintenance works.

* Halo Najib, one notch below Denis of Cork on the earnings list, breezed a half-mile in 50.40 seconds on the Churchill turf course Tuesday. Trainer Dale Romans said he "very much" wants into the Derby, but said he went ahead with a turf work while pointing toward an alternate race, the Crown Royal American Turf on Derby eve. Romans said he is not ready to commit to a Derby jockey "because I want to see what shakes out."

* Tres Borrachos, far down the earnings list, breezed three furlongs Tuesday in 35.60 seconds at Churchill while earning this distinction: He was the first to wear the specially made yellow saddlecloths worn by Derby runners during morning training. Churchill racing staff began distributing the cloths this week.

* Although both are highly unlikely to make the Derby cutoff, both Tomcito and Kentucky Bear were scheduled to move Tuesday from Keeneland to Churchill - just in case.

* My Pal Charlie, second in the Louisiana Derby before running fifth in the Arkansas Derby, will make his next start in the $400,000 Lone Star Derby on May 10, trainer Al Stall Jr. said.