Out of sight, out of mind. That's the way it is on the Kentucky Derby trail when 3-year-olds that win prep races are elevated to higher status and those making belated seasonal debuts are forgotten.
Noble's Promise is a perfect example of the latter. A two-time stakes winner, including the grade I Dixiana Breeders' Futurity, the son of Cuvee is expected to make his season debut on March 13 in the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn.
Third in Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and runner-up in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I), Noble's Promise has plenty of graded earnings for the Derby and if he remains healthy will almost certainly be in the starting gate on May 1. Yet, mainly people, including myself, have found it easy to let the bay colt slip off our radars. That's probably a big mistake, considering his solid juvenile foundation and the way he has been working down in Florida.
I caught up with trainer Ken McPeek by phone on Tuesday to get an update on Noble's Promise.
JS: It looks like he's had some really nice works at Gulfstream. How is he doing?
KM: He's doing fine. He'll have one more breeze and then is scheduled to ship to Arkansas on March 9th.
JS: You knew your decision to run him in the CashCall Futurity (on Dec. 19) would push his 3-year-old season back a bit. Any regrets with that decision?
KM: That was the plan all along. If he wins that race (he finished second to Lookin At Lucky) he's probably 2-year-old champion. So we had to take a shot. But there is no pressure for us (even though) he hasn't run yet (in 2010). He's got his graded money and it's just a matter of getting him a couple good races before the Derby.
Also, this way we can expect him to run in the Derby and the Preakness and it won't be asking too much.
JS: Is the plan the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby?
KM: No, it's the Rebel and then either the Arkansas, Blue Grass, or the Wood. We're keeping our options open. We just want a nice, two-turn race under his belt now and then we'll go from there. It was coin toss between the Rebel and Tampa Bay Derby. Actually, Tampa is not out of the question if something happens (with his shipping plans).
JS: This will be his first start on dirt. It's been kind of an overrated thing to ask how horses will do on their first start on dirt, but it will still probably one of the headlines going into the Rebel. What's your opinion?
KM: He's been training on dirt his whole life and firing bullets. His pedigree is all dirt. Good horses can run over anything and everything.
JS: And I guess you don't have to see him win the Rebel to keep moving forward?
KM: No, I would guess we'll bring him up to the race about 80 or 90%. And the next one we'll expect a little more. Most people who follow my path know the third race off a layoff is when I'm trying to have them at their best. We just want to get him (to the Derby) healthy and then the rest is up to a higher power.
JS: Graded stakes winners like Noble's Promise and Super Saver are kind of the forgotten horses on this year's Triple Crown trail, as far as the media is concerned, because they haven't raced yet this season. I'm guessing that probably doesn't concern you when you're getting a horse ready.
KM: Yeah, I don't care what the public perception is. Like I said, he already has the graded money. I can't worry about what everyone else thinks. We are the ones that are around the horse every day and know what he needs. This was the best path for him.
There is no set way to handle (a 3-year-old leading up to the Derby). It's one of those things that you deal with it on a horse-by-horse basis. There is no black or white, right or wrong way.
JS: Noble's Promise was bought for only $10,000 (at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale) and was an RNA as a yearling. Why was that?
KM: Rory Callis picked him out and he made a great purchase. Then he was bought back (at the OBS 2008 selected sale of yearlings in August of 2008) in what we called the "hurricane sale." There was a hurricane in South Florida at that time and a lot of people didn't attend the sale, including myself. So between the weather and the market being light, some horses didn't get seen. Thank God (Noble's Promise) didn't.
JS: Did you know he was special when you first saw him?
KM: I didn't get him until December of his yearling year. He had just been broken. He wasn't what I like to call an ‘obvious' horse. He didn't jump off the page. But he's done everything right since the day I got him. He's never turned a hair and handles himself very well. in training.
JS: Who will ride Noble's Promise in the Rebel?
KM: Robby Albarado