05/05/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense breaks Juvenile jinx

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Street Sense became the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to capture the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The best 2-year-old on the first Saturday in November proved the best 3-year-old on the first Saturday in May, as Street Sense became the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to capture the in the 133rd Derby at Churchill Downs.

Street Sense also became the first 2-year-old champion to win the Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1979. Street Sense's trainer, Carl Nafzger, was winning the Derby for the second time, following Unbridled in 1990. His jockey, Calvin Borel, scored his first Derby victory, as did Jim Tafel, who bred and owns Street Sense.

"I knew I had the ability," Borel said. "I just had to find the horse to get me there."

Street Sense was 19th of 20 as the field moved around the first turn, but under a textbook ride from Borel, he hugged the rail down the backstretch, split horses with a quarter-mile remaining, and ran down the loose front-runner, Hard Spun, to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Hard Spun was 5 3/4 lengths clear of Curlin, who finished third while suffering his first career loss.

Imawildandcrazyguy was fourth and was followed, in order, by 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.

Todd Pletcher, the nation's Eclipse Award-winning trainer the last three years, sent out a record-equaling five starters. They finished sixth, eighth, ninth, 18th, and last in the field 20, giving Pletcher an 0-for-19 record in the Derby.

Street Sense ($11.80) became the highest-priced favorite to win the Derby. He completed 1 1/4 miles on the fast main track in 2:02.17. He earned $1,450,000 from a gross purse of $2,210,000. He has now won 4 times in 8 lifetime starts.

Street Sense combined with Rags to Riches, the Kentucky Oaks winner on Friday, for a $23.80 payoff in the Oaks-Derby Double.

A crowd of 156,635, the third-largest in history, attended the Derby, including Queen Elizabeth II of England.

A full field of 20 broke from the gate on a humid though dry day. After daylong showers on Friday, the track was upgraded throughout the day, and was labeled fast before the day's seventh race, about 3 1/2 hours before the Derby.

Hard Spun, who turned in a blazing work five days before the race, came away quickest and led the field through fractions of 22.90 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.26 for a half-mile, 1:11.13 for six furlongs, and 1:37.04 for one mile.

There was a pack of horses sitting right behind Hard Spun early, but he began to gradually creep away from his nearest pursuers as the field moved around the far turn.

By that point, though, Street Sense was on a roll. Borel, who used a rail-hugging ride to win the Breeders' Cup, set about attempting a similar trip in the Derby. Because of the rapid pace, the runners were spread out nearing the turn, and Borel was able to deftly pick them off without having to check in traffic.

As the field neared the top of the stretch, the only horse who had a chance of catching Hard Spun was Street Sense. Borel found a seam between Sedgefield and a tiring Liquidity, and Street Sense burst through the opening and set after Hard Spun. Street Sense reached the front passing the eighth pole and drew away.

"This is the aspiration of everyone and anyone in the horse business," said Tafel, who bred Street Sense by mating his Dixieland Band mare Bedazzle with the stallion Street Cry. "It's just overwhelming."

Street Sense will now move on to Pimlico Race Course for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the May 19 Preakness Stakes. The final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park. No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, the longest drought since the Triple Crown was first won in 1919.

"He's very push-button," Borel said. "He'll put you in a spot any time you want to be and then relax. I really don't know how good he is."

Hard Spun led the Derby for the first nine furlongs under veteran rider Mario Pino, who was riding in the Derby for the first time. Knowing Borel's penchant for coming up the inside, Pino kept Hard Spun tight to the rail.

"I said I'm going to hold that rail up," Pino said. "He was relaxed all the time. When I chomped on him, he really gave me a good surge. I thought I was going to win, and then the one horse came by me. I beat the third horse by far."

Pino said the five-furlong work of 57.60 seconds on Monday did not affect Hard Spun.

"I knew in my heart what this horse could do. He did that so easy," Pino said of the drill.

Curlin was attempting to become the first horse to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882. With three starts, he was the least-experienced horse in the field. He went off the second choice, and finished well to get third.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee