NEW ORLEANS, LA – WinStar Farm and Repole Stable’s Noble Indy somehow found just enough left in his tank to overcome a stout challenge and re-rally late to take Saturday’s Grade 2, $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
Hitting the gate after breaking from post 2 under John Velazquez while running with blinkers for the first time as the 2.7/1 favorite, Noble Indy quickly recovered and settled just behind early leader Marmello through splits of :22.97 and :46.64. Nearing the far turn, Noble Indy sped past Marmello and took full command, initially running multiple lengths ahead of the field, but in that same turn, two horses made powerful moves to close that gap in no time.
Lone Sailor darted in and out of the two-path in order to pass several horses, while early trailer My Boy Jack exploded from out of nowhere and raced six- and seven-wide in the turn. With foes full of steam collaring him at the top of the stretch, all hope looked lost for Noble Indy, but the Todd Pletcher trainee showed true guts to battle back along the rail for the entire length of the long Fair Grounds stretch. In the end, Noble Indy prevailed by a neck in a final time of 1:50.28 for the 1 1/8-mile main track event.
“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,” Velazquez said. “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 down the backstretchand would not have anything down the lane.”
Though he came up just short in the end, Lone Sailor’s valiant effort was nonetheless pleasing for his trainer, Tom Amoss, who one race earlier took the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks with Chocolate Martini.
“We had a little traffic on the turn,” Amoss said. “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.”
My Boy Jack, meanwhile, spent much of the race in last before a seemingly push-button effort put him near the front. However, racing wide in the far turn in an effort to take the lead ultimately used up too much energy, and the Keith Desormeaux trainee settled for third, a 1/2-length behind Lone Sailor.
“I moved too soon,” said Keith’s brother Kent, the jockey aboard My Boy Jack. “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%.”
Givemeaminit was 7 3/4 lengths back in fourth, with the rest of the field strung out just as much behind him. Snapper Sinclair sat a nice stalking trip but couldn’t fire on the stretch and settled for fifth ahead of Hyndford, with Retirement Fund, Bravazo, Dark Templar, and a hard-fading Marmello completing the order of finish.
The Louisiana Derby is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Noble Indy earned 100 points for the win, with Lone Sailor receiving 40 for second, My Boy Jack 20 for third, and Givemeaminit 10 for fourth.
Noble Indy’s win was his first stakes score in his second attempt, following his third-place finish last out here in the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes. The son of Take Charge Indy improved his record to 4-3-0-1 with career earnings of $691,600.
“I think the blinkers had him more focused,” Pletcher said. “I was a little concerned early on, he was a little too headstrong. Johnny made a good tactical move, letting the pacesetter 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.”
Noble Indy returned $7.40 to win, $4.80 to place, and $3.20 to show. Lone Sailor brought back $7.80 to place and $4.20 to show, while My Boy Jack paid $3.20 to show.