05/08/2007 11:00PM

Derby star Borel enjoying 'Best days of my life'


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In his first day back at work, Calvin Borel got a reception worthy of royalty. Still aglow from the first Kentucky Derby victory of his 25-year riding career, Borel got several rounds of applause from a smattering of Churchill Downs regulars before riding in the first race Wednesday.

The warm greeting came less than 48 hours after Borel and his fiancee, Lisa Funk, attended a white-tie dinner at the White House, where he exchanged formal pleasantries with Queen Elizabeth II of England and took some good-natured ribbing from President Bush about his tuxedo and tails.

Borel called Bush "awesome, a great guy."

"He said, 'Where'd you get those stripes there, ol' boy?'" Borel said. "I laughed and said something about finding them on the side of the road. He made me feel right at home right away."

Borel wound up sitting at a table that included the president's daughter Barbara and the football star Peyton Manning. He said he made conversation amid the 134 invited guests with "some really important people," including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, with whom he exchanged autographed dinner menus as souvenirs. "You couldn't imagine all the people coming up to me, wanting to talk horses," he said.

The invitation to the first white-tie affair in the six-plus years of the Bush administration was extended Sunday, although Borel thought someone was pulling a prank on him.

"I got a call from Pat Day, and he said, 'You'd better go, son, it's a chance of a lifetime,'" he said. "That's when I knew it was for real."

The dinner came some 48 hours after Borel, 40, got the thrill of a lifetime by giving Street Sense a textbook ride in winning the 133rd Derby before the queen in a crowd totaling 156,635, third-largest in Derby history. He returned from Washington on Tuesday morning, then was out early Wednesday to work two horses before coming to see Street Sense at Barn 26 at Churchill at about 7:40 a.m. He hung around for about 40 minutes, laughing and talking most of the time with members of trainer Carl Nafzger's staff and passersby offering their congratulations.

"It's been unbelievable," Borel said later at a noontime media conference in the Churchill paddock. "The best days of my life."

Late in the media conference, Borel watched a replay of the Derby on the big-screen television atop the paddock, and after Street Sense surged past Hard Spun to take command, he said, "Right here, he's not running anymore. He's just galloping. This horse is unbelievable."

Asked what he thought about Street Sense's chances to win the second leg of the Triple Crown, the May 19 Preakness at Pimlico, Borel said, "I think we're going to get 'em."

Before the first race Wednesday, nearly 100 fans and Churchill employees lined the fenced walkway leading from the jockeys' room to the paddock, and when Borel emerged, they let out a polite roar, followed by lengthy applause. Minutes before, Borel had told the media that such an honor was "what I've worked for my entire life."

Borel rode favored Slews Mountain Gal to a fourth-place finish in the first race, a $15,000 maiden-claiming sprint. He also lost with his next mount, in the third race, but in the fourth, he was up in the final stride aboard Pennypinchinpete, who - in typical Borel fashion - launched a ferocious rally along the rail. As he was returning to the winner's circle, Borel let out a whoop and pumped his arm when seeing that his number had been posted the winner in the photo finish.

"Today's just another day," he had said earlier. "That's how I was lucky to get a horse like Street Sense, riding every race like it's the Derby."

Borel on Trust Your Luck on Friday

Borel could find himself aboard another winner Friday evening when the last of three allowances, and the 10th of 11 races, is run at Churchill. Borel has been named by trainer Helen Pitts to ride Trust Your Luck in the $50,000 first-level allowance route for 3-year-olds.

Trust Your Luck ran second to Dominican in the Rushaway Stakes, then fourth behind Slew's Tizzy in the Lexington Stakes in his last two starts.

"He's been a little unlucky, and we would just like to win a race with him," said Pitts, who added that she would like to send Trust Your Luck to the Ohio Derby June 2 at Thistledown.

The Friday card is the first twilight program of the spring meet, with post time set for 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Dime superfectas begin

Friday will mark the debut of 10-cent superfecta wagers at Churchill. The track had been the last holdout among Kentucky tracks to offer dime supers. Management relented to fans' requests and will use the spring meet to test whether the wager will become standard here.

At Churchill, the dime supers will be available only at self-service machines and not through mutuel tellers. The wager will be available at tracks and wagering outlets throughout the Churchill simulcast market.

Churchill chose to wait until after the Derby to offer the dime supers. Officials have said they will be reluctant to offer them on future runnings of the Derby because of how the wager tends to clog mutuel lines.

* A field of 13 3-year-old fillies has been entered for the lone stakes here this weekend, the $100,000 Open Mind, a five-furlong turf race that anchors an 11-race Saturday card.