Noble Indy looked beaten when Lone Sailor ran past him in upper stretch but battled back to the fore in the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), narrowly prevailing in a tight three-horse finish at the Fair Grounds. The winner proved keen with the addition of blinkers, registering significantly higher BRIS E1 (108) and E2 (109) Pace numbers in the fourth career start, and Noble Indy appears likely to add speed to the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.
Todd Pletcher trains the up-and-coming colt and Noble Indy joins a large chorus of front-running types being aimed toward the first leg of the Triple Crown.
The Louisiana Derby served as the first of seven major qualifiers, awarding a total of 170 points (100-40-20-10 scale) toward a berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, and the Florida Derby (G1) and U.A.E. Derby (G2) are on deck Saturday.
Blinkers were a question for Noble Indy entering the 1 1/8-mile test. In the February 17 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, the bay colt didn’t make the early lead from the same starting position (post 2), stalking front-runners in an even third-place effort, and I wondered if the lightly-raced sophomore would prove tractable in a speed-laden Louisiana Derby.
He didn’t. Favored at 5-2, the son of Take Charge Indy showed new fire from the starting gate and even though John Velazquez was able to concede pacesetting duties to 141-1 longshot Marmello, Noble Indy eagerly chased the no-hope maiden through demanding early fractions that softened him up for the latter stages. His rivals weren’t able to take advantage as he displayed enormous resolve re-rallying and while Noble Indy earned a new measure of respect, the same tactics don’t look viable at Churchill Downs.
Noble Indy registered a career-best 100 BRIS Speed rating and is developing into a quality performer. But with the headgear sharpening him up, he may prove hard-pressed to deliver the necessary finishing kick after rolling along at a high cruising speed in the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby.
Lone Sailor closed fast into contention rounding the far turn and overhauled Noble Indy after straightening for home. He reached the mile mark with a one-length advantage but couldn’t sustain his momentum in deep stretch, weakening to finish a neck back. Tom Amoss had the Majestic Warrior colt ready for a much-improved performance at his home track, with a 100 Speed figure representing a 10+ point increase from previous stakes attempts, but Lone Sailor appears unlikely to factor stretching out in distance for the Kentucky Derby.
My Boy Jack rated last of 10 for the opening three-quarters of a mile and angled out ridiculously wide on the far turn while launching an eye-catching rally. He continued to take the overland route into the stretch but came up a little short in the final furlong, finishing three-quarters of a length behind Noble Indy. My Boy Jack did net career-best BRIS Speed (99) and Late Pace (106) numbers.
After switching from turf to dirt with a dull third in January’s Sham (G3), My Boy Jack has progressed for Keith Desormeaux in the last two starts and I’m intrigued by his late kick in a potentially speed-heavy Kentucky Derby field. The son of Creative Cause must keep moving forward to run down better rivals this spring and barring extreme attrition over the next few weeks, My Boy Jack looks destined to come back for the April 14 Arkansas Derby (G1) in order to qualify. He’s currently ranked 13th with 32 points, which places him in a precarious position with seven qualifiers remaining and an international participant expected from the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Runaway Ghost lost ground the entire way from post 11 and launched a visually impressive move on the far turn to seize control of the March 24 Sunland Derby (G3), scoring by 2 ¾ lengths. But he registered only a 96 BRIS Speed rating.
The 1 1/8-mile test served as the final of seven qualifiers offering a combined 85 points (50-20-10-5) and the Ghostzapper colt was favored at 7-2 following a runner-up finish in the February 25 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland. Trainer Todd Fincher will make his Triple Crown debut after recording his first graded stakes win, but Runaway Ghost wasn’t facing stiff competition at the New Mexico track.
Runner-up Dream Baby Dream, who earned a 92 Speed rating, was exiting a non-threatening third in an Oaklawn allowance.
Saturday’s Florida Derby shapes up to be an exciting race. Audible, a runaway winner of the Holy Bull (G2), is the one to beat for Pletcher and Promises Fulfilled will try to back up an upset victory in the Fountain of Youth (G2).
Fountain of Youth runner-up Strike Power yielded front-running duties to Promises Fulfilled but answered the two-turn question, finishing 2 ¼ lengths better than 2-year-old champ Good Magic. The speedy son of Speightstown draws the rail Saturday and look for Luis Saez to send him. I’ll tab a front-running win.
Catholic Boy, a convincing winner of the Remsen (G2) in his juvenile finale, disappointed backers when second at odds-on in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. However, the late-running colt registered a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating that bodes well for his development and could be the beneficiary if a pace duel develops up front. I’ll add him to any multi-race bets.
Mendelssohn, a half-brother Beholder and Into Mischief, heads nine runners in the U.A.E. Derby. Owned by Coolmore and trained by Aidan O’Brien, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner will make his first dirt start in the 1 3/16-mile test after opening 2018 with a victory on Polytrack.
His rivals include top local hope Gold Town; Japanese invaders Ruggero and Taiku Ferveur; and Mine That Bird winner Reride.
Kentucky Derby Top 20
- BOLT D’ORO: Santa Anita Derby next for multiple G1 winner
- GOOD MAGIC: Juvenile champ seeks improved effort in Blue Grass
- SOLOMINI: Rebel runner-up has Wood as final tune-up
- MCKINZIE: Rematch versus Bolt d’Oro in Santa Anita Derby
- MAGNUM MOON: Rebel hero to meet Justify in Arkansas Derby
- JUSTIFY: Exciting prospect makes stakes bow in Arkansas Derby
- AUDIBLE: Holy Bull romper heads Florida Derby
- CATHOLIC BOY: Looks to make stretch impact in Florida Derby
- MY BOY JACK: May need Arkansas Derby placing to qualify
- NOBLE INDY: Gritty front-running winner of Louisiana Derby
- INSTILLED REGARD: Seeks to rebound in Santa Anita Derby
- ENTICED: Relished cutback in fast Gotham win; Wood Memorial next
- STRIKE POWER: Brings plenty of speed to Florida Derby
- COMBATANT: Continued to lack necessary late kick in Rebel
- PROMISES FULFILLED: Fountain of Youth upsetter back for Florida Derby
- MENDELSSOHN: Excited to see dirt debut in U.A.E. Derby
- FLAMEAWAY: Ran well in Tampa stakes; Blue Grass will tell more
- QUIP: Blue Grass next for Tampa Bay Derby upsetter
- RUNAWAY GHOST: Sunland Derby win didn’t come back fast
- BRAVAZO: Points to qualify despite Louisiana Derby flop