Gives Up Lead, Retakes It to the Wire
By Dick Downey
Noble Indy was resurgent in the stretch to edge the closing Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack in an exciting 105th Louisiana Derby.
With 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner and 40 to the runner-up, Noble Indy now has 110 total points. He and Lone Sailor, who had two points going into the race, are squarely in the Kentucky Derby picture. My Jack Jack picked up 20 points to make his total 32, and that might or might not be enough to get him into the Derby. Givemeaminit has 12 after picking up 10 points today.
With seven of the 10 starters looking on paper capable of flashing early speed, it was longshot Marmello that broke on top and led the field through the first turn and up a portion of the backstretch. Noble Indy, running under John Velazquez with blinkers for the first time, was in closest pursuit, followed by Bravazo on the inside, Snapper Sinclair several paths wide, and Givemeaminit . Initial fractions were a spritely 22.97 for the first quarter-mile, followed by a bit more reasonable 46.64 for the half.
Marmello yielded before field hit the second turn, and Noble Indy was leading after six furlongs in an honest 1:11.47. Noble Indy sped into the turn close to the rail with Lone Sailor in sixth position, four lengths off the lead. My Boy Jack, who was a leisurely last of 10 after the first half-mile, was still last by almost 11 lengths. Noble Indy exited the turn still in the lead, but his advantage continued to shorten.
Whether Noble Indy began waiting on horses could be a subject of debate, but Lone Sailor and James Graham grabbed a one-length lead mid-stretch a couple of paths outside Noble Indy. Meanwhile, My Boy Jack was flying down the center of the track under Kent Desormeaux and also got ahead of Noble Indy, but not Lone Sailor
Once that happened, Noble Indy dug in and impressively surged back to the lead and reached the wire first, a neck in front of Lone Sailor, with My Boy Jack another half-length back in third. Givemeaminit, in fourth, was beaten 8 1/2 lengths. The race was timed in 1:50.28.
Todd Pletcher, who trained Magnum Moon to victory in last Saturday's Rebel Stakes, now has a total of two Kentucky Derby horses if all goes well, and next Saturday he'll look to add a third with Audible in the Florida Derby.
Noble Indy improved on a third-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, the final local prep for the Louisiana Derby, and the win ran his record to three wins from four starts.
Sent off as the 5-2 favorite, Noble Indy returned backers $7.40 to win, $4.80 to place and $3.20 to show. Lone Sailor, at 9-1 odds, paid $7.80 to place and $4.20 to show, and My Boy Jack, who was 3-1, returned $3.20 to show. The overall second betting choice was Bravazo at 5-2.
The also-rans were Snapper Sinclair in fifth, beaten 11 3/4 lengths, followed another 8 1/4 lengths by Hyndford, then Retirement Fund, Bravazo, Dark Templar and Marmello.
The winner's share of the $1 million purse, $600,000, goes to Repole Stable and Winstar Farm LLC. Winstar bred Noble Indy in Kentucky. He's a son of Take Charge Indy out of Noble Maz, by Storm Boot. At the Keeneland September 2016 sale, Noble Indy's reserve was not attained at $45,000, so he's come a long way.
Pletcher said after the race Noble Indy will be shipped to Palm Beach Downs, with the tentative plan being to route him to Kentucky more than a week out from the Kentucky Derby.
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher: “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.”
Winning jockey 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.”
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.
“We had a little traffic on the turn. I’m not going to knock it; that’s horse racing. We got outrun down the lane. We engaged the winner and he fought us to the wire. We just couldn’t put him away.
“I look forward to seeing 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. This is a really big day in my life. To win the Oaks, 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, he faltered a little bit. I think that’s my fault, 100 percent.”
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. Keith (Desormeaux) had said that if he needed the points he’d think about wheeling back in the Arkansas Derby 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.”