WinStar Farm and Repole Stable’s Noble Indy punched his ticket into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby with a neck victory in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds Race Course. The 3-year-old Todd Pletcher-trained son of Take Charge Indy earned 100 points for his initial stakes victory and added to the 10 he earned for his third-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) last out and currently sits atop the points standings with 110 — 46 more than West Coast division leader Bolt D’Oro’s 64.
After the break, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez placed Noble Indy just behind and to the outside of the early pace of :22.97 and :46.64 set by 99-1 outsider Marmello. After a half-mile the frontrunner grew weary and gave way, allowing Noble Indy to take command in time to log six furlongs in 1:11.47, but he was only in front less than a furlong, as soon after straightening out for the drive he was challenged — and passed — by Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack to his outside. Lone Sailor was in front past the eighth pole in 1:37.29, but Noble Indy wasn’t through and returned the challenge, fighting back under a vigorous ride the whole way down the lane to gain the victory, stopping the clock for the nine-furling fast main track test in 1:50.28.
“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 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.”
As the 5-2 favorite, Noble Indy returned $7.40, $4.80 and $3.20. Lone Sailor paid $7.80 and $4.20, while My Boy Jack, who was another half-length back in third, returned $3.20. The exacta was good for $37 and the 50-cent trifecta was worth $95.35.
Givemeaminit, Snapper Sinclair, Hyndford, Retirement Fund, Bravazo, Dark Templar and Marmello rounded out the order of finish.
With the victory, Noble Indy gave trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth victory in the Louisiana Derby, joining Circular Quay (2007), Mission Impazible (2010) and Revolutionary (2013). The conditioner, who won the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver and last year with Always Dreaming, is also represented by other top Derby hopefuls in Holy Bull Stakes (GII) winner Audible, Rebel Stakes (GIII) winner Magnum Moon.
“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.”
Runner-up Lone Sailor earned 40 Kentucky Derby points to sit eighth on the points leaders’ list with 42. Third-place finisher My Boy Jack earned 20 from the Louisiana Derby and now sits at No. 12 on the leaderboard with 32 points thanks to his Southwest Stakes win and a third in the Sham Stakes (GIII). He secured 10 from a victory in Oaklawn Park’s Gr. III Southwest Stakes and two with a third-place effort in the Gr. III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.
Noble Indy earned $600,000 for his initial black-type victory to bring his career total to $691,600 and his line stands at 4-3-0-1. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park and won allowance race there before his third in the Risen Star.
He was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and was a $45,000 RNA as Keeneland September yearling in 2016.
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.