The win was the second Derby victory for trainer Carl Nafzger from just three starters and gave jockey Calvin Borel a sweet victory with his fifth mount in the race.
“Let’s just be honest, the horse has taken us everywhere,” said the 65-year-old Nafzger, who also saddled 1990 Derby winner Unbridled. “Man has he taken us on a trip.
"I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it. This is the toughest race in the world to win.”
A beaming Borel gave thanks repeatedly to Nafzger and owner and breeder James Tafel for sticking with him even though higher-profile jockeys were available.
“I knew I had the ability,” said the 40-year-old journeyman rider. “It was just finding a horse to take me there.”
He also is the first to wear the roses after just two prep races since Sunny’s Halo in 1983.
Borel was 0-4 at the Derby coming into the race.
In stopping the clock in 2:02.17 and capturing the $1.45 million winner’s share of the purse, Street Sense returned $11.80 to the bettors who favored him over morning line choice Curlin, who finished third, 5¾ lengths behind runner-up Hard Spun.
Street Sense paid $6.40 to place and $4.60 to show. Hard Spun returned $9.80 and $7, while Curlin was another 5¾ lengths back in third and paid $5.60 to show.
Street Sense, who has finished in the money in all eight of his career races.
“This horse has never run a bad race,” Nafzger said.
The race extended the frustration of the nation’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher, who managed only a sixth-place showing after saddling a record-tying five starters. He is now 0-for-19 in America’s most famous race.
“I am disappointed that the horses didn’t run better,” Pletcher said. “It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t win the Kentucky Derby. I’m not going to go home tonight and cry. That’s just not the way.”
As is his wont, the winner saved ground throughout the race, at times appearing to be affixed to the rail like the mechanical rabbit at the dog races.
Borel, who began riding match races at the age of 8 at Louisiana’s famous “bush tracks,” showed the patience of a Derby veteran rather than a rider making his first start in the storied race.
He quickly guided the son of Street Cry to the rail and got him to relax at the back of the pack. After the first half mile, he was racing in 19th place, more than a dozen lengths behind the front-runners.
Orb is the even-money favorite at Saturday's Preakness, and there's a growing feeling that this 3-year-old bay colt may be special enough to give thoroughbred racing its first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.