After being passed in upper stretch, Noble Indy re-rallied to the lead and gamely outfinished Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack to win Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. The Todd Pletcher pupil stamped his Kentucky Derby ticket recording the neck decision and John Velazquez was up for WinStar Farm LLC and Repole Stable.
The first of seven major qualifiers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Louisiana Derby awarded a total of 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10) and Noble Indy increased his point total to 110. He left the starting gate as the slight 5-2 betting favorite among 10 rivals.
A close third following a less than favorable trip in his stakes debut, the February 17 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, Noble Indy added blinkers and earned a measure of redemption on Saturday. He broke forwardly but conceded the early advantage to 141-1 odds maiden Marmello entering the first turn, tracking about a length behind through fractions of :22.97 and :46.64.
Noble Indy took a clear lead into the far turn after the pacesetter through in the towel, reaching the three-quarters mark in 1:11.47 with a two-length lead, but the late runners were rapidly advancing into contention rounding the bend. Lone Sailor was the first to make an impact, splitting horses and accelerating past Noble Indy as they straightened for home.
My Boy Jack launched a visually impressive wide move from last on the far turn and it was a three-horse race from the top of the stretch to the wire. Lone Sailor led by a length with a furlong remaining and My Boy Jack was a neck better than Noble Indy in second after the mile in 1:37.29. However, the closers could not sustain their momentum and Noble Indy came again boldly along the inside, displaying tremendous determination as he surged back to the lead in deep stretch.
Pletcher recorded his fourth victory in the Louisiana Derby, winning with Circular Quay (2007), Mission Impazible (2010) and Revolutionary (2013), who was owned by WinStar Farm.
The winner completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.28.
Lone Sailor, who was off a 9-1, held second by a half-length over 3-1 third choice My Boy Jack. It was another 7 ¾ lengths back to Givemeaminit in fourth. Snapper Sinclair came next and was followed by Hyndford, Retirement Fund, 5-2 second choice Bravazo, Dark Templar and Marmello.
From the first crop of Take Charge Indy, who has been relocated to South Korea, Noble Indy stylishly opened his racing career at Gulfstream Park in early December, romping by 8 ¾ lengths in a 6-furlong maiden special weight. He stretched out to 1 1/16 miles five weeks later and posted a front-running tally in an entry-level allowance at the same venue.
The well-built bay colt has now earned $691,600 from a 4-3-0-1 ledger.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Noble Indy did not meet his reserve and RNA’d for $45,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s the first stakes winner out of the multiple stakes-winning Storm Boot mare Noble Maz and this is the female family of Grade 1 winner Banker’s Lady and Grade 2 scorer Banker’s Gold, who finished second in the 1998 Met Mile (G1).
Risen Star Quotes
John Velazquez: “He was so far out that we never noticed them until (Lone Sailor) started coming next to me and put up a very nice fight down the lane. That’s what made him brave and come back again. I’m happy with the way he did it. The reason we put the blinkers on is because we know that he is very talented, but he’s very green. Today with blinkers on he was better, but he was a little too keen on the backstretch so I was a little afraid that he was a little too strong on the backstretch. I was a little afraid that he was a little too strong down the backstretch and would not have anything down the lane.”
Todd Pletcher (via telephone): “I think the blinkers had him more focused. I was a little concerned early on, he was a little too head strong. Johnny made a good tactical move letting the pace setter go and then getting outside of the horse. He fought back hard, finished up well and galloped out with enthusiasm. This race was a big step in the right direction. I was pleased with the way he conducted himself. He seems to be maturing as he gets more experience.”
Pletcher stated that the horse would ship back to Palm Beach Downs on Monday and from there, he would decide when the horse would ship to Churchill Downs.
Tom Amoss (trainer of Lone Sailor, second): “I’m not going to get spiritual about this thing, but I’ll tell you this – I really felt Mr. Benson was with us today. This guy reminds me a lot of Mylute, who came from off the pace and just got beat a neck in the Louisiana Derby and that’s what happened to day with Lone Sailor. We’ve got the points now. I know the group wants to go to the Kentucky Derby and I stand behind that as well so if he’s happy then we’re going to go.
“I look forward to seeing (owner) Mrs. Benson and I want her to see the look in my eye because it’s the same as all the other citizens of New Orleans. We loved him, we love his legacy, and I want her to know how important this was to me. Everybody feels like they’ve got a connection to Tom Benson if they’re part of this city. He’s one of us and I’m so proud and honored to be part of it.
“We had a little traffic on the turn. I’m not going to knock it; that’s horseracing. We got outrun down the lane. We engaged the winner and he fought us to the wire. We just couldn’t put him away.
“This is a really big day in my life. To win the (Fair Grounds) Oaks (G2) (with Chocolate Martini), which I’ve never won, and to barely get beat in the Louisiana Derby, all in the same day, it’s more than I could’ve hoped for.”
James Graham (jockey of Lone Sailor, second): “He picked up and he sprinted away. He kind of got there maybe a little too soon. When they came to him on each side, he stretched his neck out and ran again.”
Kent Desormeaux (jockey of My Boy Jack, third): “I was galloping. I moved too soon. When I asked him to go I said, ‘he can’t lose, there’s no reason to be cute.’ He went so fast from last to first that he couldn’t sustain that kick and the last hundred (yards) he faltered a little bit. I think that’s my fault, 100%.”
Sol Kumin (co-owner of My Boy Jack, third): “We got to the fence early and saved ground, which is exactly what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, we had to go six- or seven-wide and that was probably the difference. I actually thought we were going to win. (Trainer) Keith (Desormeaux) had said that if he needed the points he’d think about wheeling back in the Arkansas Derby (G1) (on April 14) but we’ll wait to see how he comes out and what Keith wants to do. In Keith we trust.”
Gary Stevens (jockey of Bravazo, eighth): “He warmed up good, got away from there good. We were going fast and I eased into the three-path going into the first turn and all of a sudden he wanted to go straight. I didn’t make the turn, I had a steering malfunction for whatever reason. I just don’t know, but he was lugging out with me the entire trip and I had both hands on the inside rein, literally, trying to hold him in. I was breaking his momentum and he was fighting me and I was just trying to keep him on track but wasn’t really able to accomplish that. I can’t explain why. He was sound after the race, pulled up good, but he was mad.
“I don’t know what happened, I really don’t. Maybe they’ll find some cuts in his mouth or a bad tooth or something. That’s what he acted like, like he was really fighting the bit, and it all happened at once. I’ll talk with the Coach when I’m done here and he’ll figure it out but it was very disappointing.”