Dam: The Devil's Trick (Clever Trick)
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Career Record: 8-3-1-1
Graded Earnings (rank): $738,000 (#2)
Running Style: Presser
Noble's Promise is a classic pace presser/stalker; the furthest behind the leaders that this colt has been in any of his career wins is just three lengths. His race in the Arkansas Derby saw him eight lengths back after a half but that was primarily due to a little bit of a rough trip leaving the gate.
Despite the fact that his running lines always show him up near the lead early on, Noble's Promise doesn't display a tremendously quick burst from the gate and has generally found himself near the lead due to a slow early pace. Given the prospects of several speed horses in the Derby field, this colt looks like a horse that is going to find himself in the middle of the pack instead of a length or two off of the lead.
How he got to the Derby: Noble's Promise put together an excellent juvenile campaign that saw him win a listed stake at Presque Isle Downs, the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, followed up by a third place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita and a second place finish to Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park.
Coming into his three year old campaign, Noble's Promise faced a similar question to that of Lookin At Lucky: could he run on dirt? He answered that question affirmatively with his very game runner-up performance in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes to Lucky. He threw in a clunker in the Arkansas Derby, but he came out of that race with an assortment of cuts and a lung infection so it's possible we could throw that one out.
Noble's Promise is not a sure thing to even start in the Derby as his connections are considering skipping the big race due to the injuries he sustained at Oaklawn Park. He has also been nominated for the prestigious Group 1 Epsom Derby in England.
What has to happen for him to win: It goes without saying that Noble's Promise is going to have to finally get a good trip in order to come out on top in the Kentucky Derby. Unlike his rival, Lookin At Lucky, this colt has simply not shown that he can win a race in which he gets less than an ideal trip. He's also a bit of a question mark at the mile and a quarter Derby distance being a son of noted sprinter Cuvee. The bottom side of his pedigree has a bunch of stamina in it but all of that has occurred on the lawn, which is just not the same a running a distance of ground on the dirt.
The positives for Noble's Promise are that despite the pedigree questions, the rough trips, and the constant match-ups with Lookin At Lucky, he almost always runs a good race. The Arkansas Derby is the only "flop" of his career and that may have been due to a rough trip and his lung infection.
I've gone back and forth multiple times on my personal odds line with Noble's Promise. The first draft had him as high as 10/1, then I dropped him down to somewhere around 20 or 25/1, only to split the difference on my current line to 15/1. At this point, my odds are heavily dependent on him putting in a strong morning move at some point in the next week to show me that he's past the lung infection he had at Oaklawn and that he is ready to run.
Noble's Promise feels like a 25/1 to 30/1 shot to win but I keep coming back to the fact that on his best days he's been right with Lookin At Lucky at the finish line. As I've been saying all spring, if you like Lookin At Lucky don't you have to like Noble's Promise just a little bit? A perfectly logical response to that question would be that you don't like him at a mile and a quarter, which I wouldn't quibble with one bit. But, unfortunately, we live in an era where practically every single horse that enters the Derby has issues with the Derby distance.
Key Race: Grade 2 Rebel Stakes (2nd)
Check out the Lookin At Lucky preview if you'd like to watch a replay of the Rebel Stakes.
Noble's Promise was probably fortunate to only lose by a head to Lucky on this day as I think he benefited by causing the winner to take up at the half mile pole. On the positive side, despite the concerns about his pedigree, Noble's Promise was quite game as he ran through deep stretch. He covered the final 3/16 of a mile in :30.69, a final fraction that really isn't that bad, especially when compared to the other prep races this spring.