Q and A With Noble's Promise Trainer Ken McPeek

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


Leave a Comment:

Ted from LA

Does anybody else hate the name "Super Saver?"  It sounds more like some blue-haired lady shopping at Walmart on December 26th at 12:01 AM in southern Missouri than a Derby winner.  I hope I never see that name on a Derby glass. Noble's Promise I could live with...  Caracortado, I would celebrate.

02 Mar 2010 3:54 PM
Billy's Empire

Ted, too funny! Might as well be named "Blue Light Special"

Man, K-mart used to be the shiznit!!

Now we have the "People of Walmart"

If Caracortado wins, it could be a really late night for Scarface fans....

02 Mar 2010 4:16 PM
Billy's Empire

Nice interview Jason. Ken seems to have this one figured out. That would be his third start off the layoff at CD, but it will also be Super Saver's, Looking at Lucky, Vale of York if he comes, Buddy's Saint, and a few others. Strong group to contend with

02 Mar 2010 4:20 PM
Mike Relva


I also like Caracortado,don't like Super Saver

02 Mar 2010 4:55 PM

If anyone can turn the tables on Lookin an Lucky on a conventional surface it would be this one.  I particularly liked "I don't care what the public's perception is."  That's too funny.  Right on McPeek.    

02 Mar 2010 6:25 PM

Noble's promise is a genuinely tough and hard-knocking performer that is going to give his best shot but his pedigree suggest that he'll "hit a brick wall" entering the final furlong of the Derby.  He'll have to come from well off the pace and be really motoring to pick up a piece if the early going is furious.  

I wish Kenny McPeek all the best.  He is one of those courageous, enterprising and sportsmanlike trainers who deserves to break through in the Kentucky Derby.

02 Mar 2010 6:54 PM
Ted from LA

In my opinion, the only way Eskendereya makes the Derby field is if his owner sells him before May 1.  Perhaps Pete Rose or Art Schlichter will buy him.

02 Mar 2010 9:12 PM

Ted from LA:  I hate the name Super Saver too.  We have a discount movie theater where I live named Super Saver.  The place is a dump that smells really bad and your feet stick to the floor because they rarely clean up the spilled soft drinks and discarded chewing gum.

Every time anybody mentions the horse Super Saver all I can think about is that awful smell and filthy floor.  I wouldn't be able to touch a Derby glass with that name on it.  

02 Mar 2010 11:08 PM

Thanks for the interview Jason.

I was able to see Noble's Promise twice in person, first in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile and then in the Hollywood(CashCall) Futurity.  Noble's Promise ran well each race, but Lookin at Lucky had him well measured in both.  

Clearly, Noble's Promise is a tough, game and consistent horse, but he's not exactly a "wow" horse.  He's not big, and really isn't much to look at; like Mine That Bird, he's wrapped in a plain brown bag.  He's shown speed on synthetic, but they have been very slow paced races, so it's unclear how his speed will match up with "dirt speed".  Additionally, Noble's Promise didn't demonstrate an ability to really accelerate, like most of the other top turf and synthetic horses.  While he has placed in 3 straight gr.1 races, his style has been to press the pace and keep chuggin, doing just enough to hang around at the finish.  His success in gr.1 events is a reflection of quality, but again, he has been far from overwhelming.

Something that does give me hope for Noble's Promise this year, particularly on dirt, is that he has shown speed on synthetic yet still run well. Speed on synthetic doesn't always go together(although at Hollywood a bunch of horses won on or near the lead), however, Noble's Promise has had alot of success with his speed on synthetics.  Although there is no guarentee, Noble's Promise has the style of a horse that should run well on dirt, with his speed being an even greater asset then it has been on synthetic.  Distance will be another issue, but at least he does have a solid 2-turn foundation.

02 Mar 2010 11:38 PM

Art Schlichter ? Wow... lol. Fly Down Jason ?

03 Mar 2010 1:21 AM


Super Saver is actually a great name for a Kentucky Derby contender based on the current economic climate.  I think Super Saver ends up in Tampa running against Uptowncharliebrown.

Great interview with Mr. McPeek.  

03 Mar 2010 9:56 AM

Hey Ted...leave Missouri Alone :OP

03 Mar 2010 11:03 AM
Greg J.


     Thanks for the interview... "Good horses can run over anything and everything.", So true!, Wish more could or would understand that...

03 Mar 2010 11:09 AM

Noble's Promise is a nice horse.  I have seen him run a few times now.  As a Derby horse, I really can't see him going 1 1/4 miles and winning.  Hi pedigree might fall in the dosage profile, but he is all speed until you get to his 3rd generation.  Too far back to make much of a difference.  Having said that.....all bets are off if Calvin Borel is named to ride this horse in the Derby !!!

03 Mar 2010 12:43 PM

John Henry could have run on I95...

03 Mar 2010 1:24 PM


 Anything interest you in pool number 2?  Aikenite at 50-1 peaks my interest. I'm guessing that Odysseus at 50-1 might get your attention.

03 Mar 2010 4:00 PM


Any idea what the plans are for Eightyfiveinafifty?  I see he was not entered for the 'Cappy' and has no timed works since the "incident".  Is Contessa backing off him completely or is he waiting for the Bay Shore or possibly an allowance race?  Personally I'd like to see him go Allowance, Bay Shore, Derby Trial.  If he can win the Derby Trial then he should point for a campaign to culminate in the BC Dirt Mile.

03 Mar 2010 4:03 PM
Mike Relva


Great interview. I totally agree with what Ken said regarding he doesn't care about public perception.

03 Mar 2010 4:20 PM


Future pool #2

Noble's Promise 30-1

Lentenor, Interactif have dirt on radar, they will pass on the G3 Palm Beach Stakes on Saturday.

03 Mar 2010 8:06 PM
Jason Shandler

longway: You bet. If Odysseus stays at a big price I will be firing. A few very questionable horse in Pool 2. Some dont belong there, IMO.

tcc: Noble's Promise is also intriguing. It all depends what they number is on Sunday. I'm hearing that Plether may just race Interactif in the Santa Anita Derby and go right to the KY Derby. That's the luxury you have when earnings arent an issue. DRF says the Lane's End is also an option. I'll try to find out next week.

03 Mar 2010 8:14 PM


 Did you happen to ask Mr. McPeek how Beautician is doing and where she will race next?

03 Mar 2010 10:01 PM
Jason Shandler

Sorry longway. Didnt get to the filly. Should have.

03 Mar 2010 10:31 PM

I don't know if she is being pointed to the Oaks or not but she is 50-1 right now. I'll see what I can dig up on her before the pool closes on Sunday.

03 Mar 2010 11:25 PM
Gina Powell

Great horse and good trainer. However, racetracks have become a dumping ground for religious zealots and McPeek seems to be no exception "leave it up to  a higher power."

04 Mar 2010 7:05 AM
Billy's Empire

anyone know if Vale of York won? I cant find results yet on the Dubai or emirate racing sites.

04 Mar 2010 9:48 AM
Jason Shandler

Billy: The race is at 10:35 a.m. EST

04 Mar 2010 10:09 AM
Billy's Empire

ok, thanks Jason I thought I saw it at 835 am eastern, my bad.

04 Mar 2010 10:31 AM
Billy's Empire

I think the inside horse Musir and Mike De Cock have a good chance

04 Mar 2010 10:35 AM
Billy's Empire

hmm, Medip won by 6.5 legnths!! Now 3-0 lifetime, Godolphin may have a nice colt in the making. I wonder if he will race next in Dubai or ship to the U.S?

04 Mar 2010 11:10 AM

Mendip won.  Vale of York "very rank" and finished 5th.  Is Mendip nominated for the Derby?

(Also, my usual question over the past few months: seen anything - any works or anything - about Hollinger?)

04 Mar 2010 11:14 AM

I see vale of york spit the bit and faded to 5th. Better luck next year godolphin. not!!

I find it hard to get past noble promises breeding. don't see a derby winner here.

04 Mar 2010 11:27 AM
Matthew W

Believe it or not, it IS a long way to May! Caracortado has won twice around two turns, is out of a son of Storm Cat, the sire of sires it seems, has sneaky-good breeding, high cruising speed, kicks like a mule, gonna be around for a long time (gelding)....a CalBred Gelding winning the Kentucky Derby? OK, probably not, but---outside of Eskendareya, I have seen nothing that would scare me from trying!...My thinking is, like a filly, there's really no economic reason to try the Derby, a 20 horse field at 1 1/4, with a gelding--better to save him up for a long, money making year--Caracortado is for real, and I think he will win many important races before he hangs it up, hopefully several years from now...as for Noble's Promise, he's done it at two, he gets two turns, he tries hard every time, he's in good hands....maybe forgotten but not by me....

04 Mar 2010 12:18 PM


Godolphin. Before the Al Bastakiya, connections said they had the Kentucky Derby in mind for Mendip.

04 Mar 2010 1:00 PM


 I just got done reading your analysis of the SA Oaks. The answer to your headline question is NO!

04 Mar 2010 3:28 PM
Jason Shandler

Havent we seen this story before with a Godolphin horse winning impressively in Dubai and people getting all excited? They have little chance to win the Derby.

04 Mar 2010 3:47 PM
Matthew W

Red Sun in the Kilroe--gets the acid test, stuck inside, but this is a real good horse--I'm diving in! Call it an early Easter Present! There's something about getting a good price on a horse you think's all-that--puts a smile in my heart and a spring in my step!...if he wins, I'll parlay everything on "Hurt Locker" on Sunday Night!---CA-CHING!

04 Mar 2010 5:01 PM

Agree with jshandler about the Godolphin horse but the same can be said for Pletcher horses.  He's lost the KD quite a bit more than Godolphin but the media hypes him every year anyway.

Good article about Noble's Promise.  

04 Mar 2010 5:11 PM

Matthew W,

Red Sun is a really good horse. He appears to be a front runner so the post position should not be a problem. I saw his stablemate, Compari, run and win last Sunday. Red Sun was entered in that race also but was scratched. Now I know why. Good luck! Hope the price is right!

04 Mar 2010 8:00 PM

Why do so many people try to justify their feelings of Caracortado by saying "He`s proven himself on dirt"?  Winning a 4f race on dirt in a maiden claimer at a county fair just doesn`t wow me over.  I kinds like Dave in Dixie of the West coasters now that Lucky is shipping out.  Alphie`s Bet might be worth a play in the Sham weather permitting.

05 Mar 2010 4:44 AM

Mendip is pointing first to the UAE Derby, then they'll decide about Kentucky.  But, I found him the most impressive of all of the colts considered.  Hate to have an opinion after just one race...but...he's beautiful, can go the distance, can fight off a mob, and has the speed.  Hope he comes to the US.  He is a Ky bred, after all.  I think they're keeping Vale of York in Europe for turf races, but the sheik seemed to think Mendip is not for the turf.

05 Mar 2010 9:57 AM

Oops! I made a mistake. Red Sun and Compari are not stablemate. They are both sons of Redattore but they have different trainers.

05 Mar 2010 11:05 AM

Jason, Any thoughts on the handling of Buddy's Saint now that Levine has said they plan to pass up all of the rest of the preps and focus now on basically a 1 race prep schedule for Buddy.  Normal thought process says the FOY did nothing for the horse to move him forward and you have plenty of time to get the normal 2 preps into him for a solid TC foundation and run at all 3 races.  Or is this a case of we're just going to take our chances and run in the Ky Derby no matter what?

05 Mar 2010 11:09 AM

Remember Dutrow's words about the Belmont Stone Cold Exact BB-CD.

Let me say Stone Cold Tri Rebel Stakes.

Dublin, Noble's Promise, LAL

Throw in the Pletcher Mission Impazable and thats the ticket.

05 Mar 2010 11:14 AM
Jason Shandler

Afleetalexforever: I just wrote a new blog on Buddy's Saint. Personally, I think he will rebound in the Wood. Not sure about the Derby yet.

05 Mar 2010 12:40 PM
Mike Relva


Well said regarding John Henry.

05 Mar 2010 6:36 PM

Recent Posts


Recommended Links



More Blogs