Trainer Todd Pletcher seems to always have his hands full this time of year with solid Kentucky Derby possibilities and this year appears to be no exception.
On Saturday, Pletcher's army of Derby hopefuls will be represented by Noble Indy in the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots' Grade II $400.000 Risen Star Stakes, the second of three local preps on Churchill Downs' Road to The Kentucky Derby which awards the Top 4 finishers based off of a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Repole Stable, the son of Take Charge Indy has won his two career starts, both of which took place at Gulfstream Park. He took his career debut in wire-to-wire fashion by 8¾ lengths on Dec. 3 going seven furlongs before defeating winners at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on Jan. 11.
“We were just looking for a logical prep timing wise,” Pletcher said by phone from his South Florida base. “He's been doing really well and came out of last race well. There are essentially options every weekend but we feel like this is a good spot for him. He's shown a tremendous amount of talent not only in the mornings but in both of his races. He's a horse with a pedigree that suggests he'll handle longer distances. Right now he's at that stage of development in his career where it's time to step up into the graded stakes ranks and see where he fits in the big picture. We think he's a horse that belongs on the Derby trail and we're hoping he handles each step up in class and so far he has.”
Since his most recent outing, Noble Indy has worked three times over the main track at Palm Beach Downs Training Center in South Florida, where Pletcher is based in the winter. His last breeze took place on Saturday morning when he drilled five furlongs in 1:01.00. Pletcher believes that Noble Indy has developed both mentally and physically as he continues to train.
“The one thing that we've been working with him a lot is his behavior around the gate,” Pletcher said. “He had a little bit of history of that before he came to us and it was something that we continue to work on. In his first start, he behaved poorly in the gate but despite that broke very sharply and he handled it much better in his second start but we continued to work on that. The one thing that I think (jockey) John Velazquez has learned about him by breezing him prior to his last race is that he has a tendency to wait a little bit when he makes the lead and he kind of did that in his allowance win. I think he's gotten better about that in his subsequent works and he'll learn how to polish off his work mate and maintain his focus.”
Noble Indy will break from post two as the third choice at morning line odds of 5-1.
“I guess that I would rather be there than way outside,” Pletcher said. “We feel like he is in a position now where he'll have to handle things like going to a new track, a new starting gate crew and being behind horses or have to work a little harder to establish position. All are factors that are going to lead to his development and hope we prepare him for bigger days down the road.”
Pletcher stated that the horse will ship to the Fair Grounds on Wednesday, February 14.
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