Indy not as Noble as we thought
March 27, 2018 3:00 AM
by Steve Davidowitz
A few weeks ago, I pointed out Noble Indy seemed to learn a lot from his third place finish in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fairgrounds. Well, judging by his victory on Saturday in the 1-1/8 mile $1 million Louisiana Derby, he validated that opinion.
Nevertheless, I am not sure his victory in that race advanced his credentials as a genuine contender for the $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5.
My reasons for doubting Noble Indy’s suitability to the world’s most famous race relates to two things:
• Noble Indy added blinkers for Saturday’s race that may have improved his concentration. But, he also raced on-or-near the lead for the entire nine furlongs while earning a modest 95 Beyer Speed Figure. Frankly, a front-running style rarely is the right formula to outrun 19 rivals in a 1-1/4-mile race that typically is won by a horse with a good finishing kick. Given that, I actually preferred My Boy Jack’s solid late run for third in the La. Derby as a more promising performance.
• It also should be remembered Noble Indy’s terrific trainer Todd Pletcher has a few other legit Derby contenders in his barn. Thus, Noble Indy could be destined to be used as a pace setter – or a horse to engage the other speed types – to set up the Derby for Pletcher’s Audible, for just one example.
Also, Saturday’s La. Derby was just the beginning of a series of important stakes that will help identify the very best Derby contenders.
Specifically, this coming Saturday the Derby prep race scene will shift to Gulfstream Park in Florida for the $1 million, 1-1/8 mile Florida Derby and to the Middle East, where Meydan Racecourse in Dubai will host the $2 million UAE Derby, which will be run at about 1-1/5 miles.
These two rich Derby prep stakes will be followed on Saturday, April 7, by three of America’s most prestigious Derby preps – The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby – each to be contested at the popular 1-1/8 mile distance.
Finally, on April 14 the prep race season will conclude with another nine furlong prep race – the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, as well as the 1-1/16 mile Lexington stakes at Keeneland.
In the meantime, horseplayers should know that if more than 20 horses are entered in the Kentucky Derby, actual starting positions will be determined by the Derby-Eligibility-Point System. This relatively recent component of the Derby picture provides that starting berths will go to the top 20 point earners who have scored top finishes in Graded prep stakes.
To illustrate how this may impact the quality of this year’s Derby field, consider this: Noble Indy is on top of the current Derby point list with the 110 he’s earned via his two good performances at the Fair Grounds this year. Meanwhile, the undefeated and very flashy Justify has no Derby points and will need to finish first or second in one of the remaining prep stakes just to get into the world’s most famous race.
The seven remaining Derby prep races are listed in the chart on page 5. Each is worth 100 points for first; 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth, except the Lexington Stakes, which will be worth 20 for first, 10 for second, five for third and one point for fourth.
The top 24 point getters on the current Derby-Eligible list are listed in a separate chart, also on page 5. Please keep in mind, this list is sure to change dramatically after the remaining Derby prep races are run.
Horses presently scheduled to compete in the remaining Derby preps are listed below. I will have reports on each as we go forward.
March 31: UAE DERBY – Mendelssohn, Threefourpence, Seahenge, Gold Town, Raaya, Reride, Ruggero (JPN), Taiki Ferveur (JPN),Yulong Warrior; FLORIDA DERBY – Promises Fulfilled, Strike Power, Catholic Boy, Audible, Fire When Ready, King Zachary, Millionaire Runner, Mississippi, Storm Runner, Tip Sheet.
April 7: WOOD MEMORIAL – Enticed, Quip, Solomini, Firenze Fire Old Time Revival, Gronkowski, Instilled Regard, Good Magic, Vino Rosso, Gidu-IRE, Westerdale; SANTA ANITA DERBY – Bolt d’Oro, McKinzie, Blended Citizen, Restoring Hope, Justify and Instilled Regard if he doesn’t go in the Wood Memorial or the Blue Grass stakes; BLUE GRASS – Quip and Good Magic if either or both do not go in the Wood, Flameaway, Free Drop Billy, Blended Citizen, Gronkowski, Instilled Regard, Machismo, Gidu-IRE and Storm Runner if he does not go in the Fla. Derby.
April 14: ARKANSAS DERBY – Magnum Moon, Blended Citizen, Sporting Chance, Gidu-IRE and Justify if he does not go in the SA Derby; LEXINGTON – Greyvitos, Core Beliefs, Exclamation Point, Mask, Telekinesis.