by Paul Hundley (@vapaul67 on Twitter)

Trainer Todd Pletcher is projected to send out 4 of the 20 horse field for Kentucky Derby 144 on May 5th, barring unforeseen circumstances. Despite winning the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and the 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points that came with it, Noble Indy seems to be the forgotten horse in the Pletcher barn as it regards to this year’s Kentucky Derby.  With stablemates such as Derby favorites Audible and Magnum Moon, plus one of the “wiseguy” horses this year in Vino Rosso, it’s not very hard or even an insult to be considered 4th best behind the aforementioned three, it just shows how strong Pletcher’s hand is this year. Let’s examine Noble Indy on many different aspects to see if he is a legitimate contender or pretender.


Bred in Kentucky by current co-owners Winstar Farm LLC, Noble Indy is from the first crop of Take Charge Indy. Offered at the Keeneland Yearling Sale in 2016(a sale that often has many eventual Kentucky Derby Runners, this year’s projected field has 11 that sold at the 2016 Sale), failed to meet the reserve of $45,000 and was subsequently kept by Winstar. Repole Stable would eventually buy interest in the horse.


Noble Indy comes in with a 4-3-0-1 record(meaning he has 4 career starts, 3 wins, zero 2nd place finishes, and one 3rd). He broke his maiden in his debut December 3rd, going gate to wire for an 8 3/4 length win. Was his only start of 2017. In his 3 year old debut January 11th, won an Optional Claimer at Gulfstream that included Florida Derby 3rd place finisher Mississippi as the 4/5 favorite. Stalked leader early on before taking over the lead from that rival 3 furlongs in. Was able to hold him off for a 3/4 length win to remain undefeated. Was pointed to the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fairgrounds after that win. Showed immaturity by acting up in paddock prior to the race. Elliot Walden, the CEO of Winstar, even referred to him as a “Brat” as it related to his actions before his stakes debut. As for the race itself, was placed further behind leaders early than he had been in previous two races, and despite a solid 100 BRIS Late Pace Figure, was only able to come in 3rd behind longshots Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair as a 5/2 betting choice. Pletcher decided to add blinkers for the colt’s next start, the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby also at Fairgrounds. Sent off as the slight 2/1 favorite, Noble Indy broke 2nd despite hitting the gate at the start. Raced to a 2 length lead a half mile in under 2 time Kentucky Derby winning jockey John Velazquez, was in 3rd place in stretch after Southwest Stakes Winner My Boy Jack and longshot Lone Sailor passed him. To his credit, fought back in stretch to come away with a hard fought 1/2 length victory, earning the 100 points that came with winning The Fairgrounds biggest race and securing his spot in this year’s Run for the Roses.

Noble Indy has earned Brisnet Speed figures of 97-95-96-100 from his debut to his Louisiana Derby triumph. His Beyer Speed Figures have improved each race, with a 77 in his MSW win, an 84 in his Optional Claimer win, a 91 in his 3rd place Risen Star, and a 95 in his last win. As for his ThoroGraph numbers, they have been 3.5, 1.75, 6.25, and 2.5. Would need a significant improvement in those to compete with some others in this year’s field if they are able to match their previous races in the Derby.


As mentioned earlier, Noble Indy is from the first crop of Take Charge Indy, who won the 2012 Florida Derby in gate to wire fashion, but faltered to a 19th place finish 5 weeks later in Kentucky Derby 138. His grandsire A.P. Indy not only won the 1992 Belmont Stakes and also that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, but is arguably the greatest sire of his generation and has produced several horses that have won at the classic 10 furlong distance. Take Charge Indy is a half brother to 2013 3 year old Champ Will Take Charge. He has also sired Grade 2 winner Take Charge Paula, who is a contender in this year’s Kentucky Oaks. While there is plenty to suggest that Noble Indy has enough from his sire’s side to suggest the mile and a quarter won’t be an issue, a look at his Dam’s pedigree side tells another story. His Dam Noble Maz won 8 races in her career, but the longest was her maiden win at 6 1/2 furlongs. Most of her other victories were at the 5 furlong distance on turf or an off track. His Damsire Storm Boot won 4 races in his 14 race career, none past 6 furlongs. His progeny’s average winning distance is 6.3 furlongs. Storm Boot has yet to be the Broodmare Sire of a Grade 1 winner. He was, however, the Damsire of 2012 Indiana Derby winner Neck n Neck. Storm Boot’s 2nd Dam Drumtop won the Hialeah Turf Cup and Bowling Green Handicap at 12 furlongs.  Noble Indy’s 3rd Dam Niner’s Gal, while unraced, is half sister to the Dam’s that produced Banker’s Gold and Ecton Park, who won the Super Derby at 1 1/4 miles.
Jon White, who has been involved in the racing industry for over 50 years and currently works for XBTV as well as the Morning Line Maker for Santa Anita Park, has a Derby Strike System he uses every year to see which horses fit the best profile of a Derby winner. The list has 9 different categories, 1 strike doesn’t automatically disqualify a horse from serious contender consideration, but 2 strikes on the list make it very unlikely this horse will be wearing the roses on the First Saturday in May. To those unfamiliar with his strike system, here is a list of the categories:

In either of the horse’s final 2 preps before the Derby, should have been either 1st or 2nd at the 1/8th mile pole. As stated earlier, most eventual Derby winners are either 1st or 2nd at the eighth pole.

In both of the horse’s final 2 preps before Derby, should not have a worse finishing position than he or she was at the eighth pole. Horse’s that lose ground/position in shorter races leading up to the Derby are not usually ones wanting the 10 furlong distance.

Late bloomers rarely win the Derby. This category seperates who has been pointed on the Derby Trail for a while from those who started late or ran into issues and are scrambling at the last minute to get in. The Derby isn’t won by dumb luck, it’s won by preperation and a little good fortune as well.

Pretty self explanatory here, if a horse can’t finish at least 3rd gonig 9 furlongs, what would make you think they’re going to place better with another furlong added.

Easily the most talked about of all the rules, everyone knows that no unraced 2 year old has won the Derby since Apollo in the late 1800’s. There have been several that have come close however. Bodemeister was probably 100 yards or so away from winning in 2012 before I’ll Have Another overcame him. Curlin finished a troubled trip 3rd in 2007 from the 2 hole in just his 4th career start. Two weeks later would win the Preakness. Big Brown had just 1 race as a 2 year old, and like Curlin, was making just his 4th career start in 2008 Derby, a race he won convincingly.

The thinking here is, you really don’t want to be figuring things out with what might work with your horse a month or so before the probable biggest race of their career. If you’re adding or taking blinkers off, it means you’re still searching for answers.

This one I don’t believe really matters this year because I don’t think there’s a gelding among the prospective Derby field. Funny Cide and Mine That Bird have won the Derby in the last 15 editions. The line of thinking here is that if a horse had the talent all along to be a Derby Contender, no one in their right mind would ever geld them.

If you want to win the main event, you gotta win the preliminary events first, right? While we’ve seen Mine That Bird and Giacomo win the Derby without winning a Graded Stakes beforehand(coincidentally both were 50-1 in the Derby), generally speaking horses that run in the Derby without having won a Stakes are considered filler more so than contender.

I saved this for last because recent years have shown that this category should be stricken from the Strikes System. The rule states that a horse should have a minimum of 6 races entering the Derby, but in the last 10 years or so over half the winners have fallen under that minimum.
As this relates to Noble Indy, he gets a strike in Category 1 since he was neither 1st or 2nd at the eighth pole in the Louisiana Derby or Risen Star. He passes Categories 2-5, but get’s another strike in Category 6 as Blinkers were added in his last start, the Louisiana Derby. He would also get a strike in Category 9, but as mentioned, I don’t feel that category has much merit anymore. Still, that gives Noble Indy 2 strikes, which puts him in the unlikely to win side of contenders, based on the Strike System. I have also added 3 categories of my own to the 8 categories of Mr. White’s; 1)Must have ran the final 3/8th mile of his 9 furlong prep race in :38 or under. Since 2000, only 2 horses have won the Kentucky Derby coming in with a final 3/8th time in their final prep over :38. Noble Indy came home in :38.47, so he gets a 3rd strike. 2)Must have ran a final Mile and Eighth time in under 1:50. Since 2000, only 4 horses have won the Derby where they ran their 9 furlong prep in over 1:50. Noble Indy’s Louisiana Derby time was 1:50.28, just above the limit and earning him his 4th strike. 3) Must have won their last race. The last 7 Derby winners all won their last prep race before heading to Louisville, and the last 6 won at least their last 2 races. Obviously Noble Indy passes this category with his gutty win March 24 at Fairgrounds. Still, with 4 strikes he seems a longshot to be wearing the rose the first Saturday in May.
1M2A6272 noble indy

Noble Indy on the track at Churchill Downs. Photo by Holly M. Smith


Noble Indy does possess a good bit of early speed, his E1 and E2 in the Louisiana Derby were 108 and 109, respectively, that fast pace compromised his Late Pace, and he was very fortunate to win despite an LP of just 86. Dale Romans has already went on record as saying he has instructed Corey Lanerie to take Promises Fulfilled to the front in the Derby and good luck to anyone’s Derby chances should they challenge him. It’s unlikely and unwise that Pletcher would instruct Florent Geroux to challenge Roman’s charge early on, my guess is that Noble Indy will be at least 2-3 lengths back at first call. The question that obviously won’t be answered until the race is run is who will be up there with him? I still expect Justify within a length or 2 early on, if he isn’t actually setting the pace depending on post position. Flameaway will more than likely be less than 2 lengths off the lead early, and more than likely Bravazo will have a say in the early pace scenario.


Todd Pletcher’s training record would make almost anyone envious. He has won over 4,500 races and amassed over $358 million in earnings, setting records for Graded Stakes wins and Yearly earnings along the way. He has also been named Outstanding Trainer 7 times in Eclipse Awards voting. Pletcher won last year’s Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, as well as in 2010 with Super Saver. He has also won 3 Belmont Stakes, including last year with Tapwrit. Pletcher’s Derby record stands at 48 starters, 2 wins, 2 second place finishes, and 3 third place finishes. Unfortunately he has trained more horses that have finished last in the Kentucky Derby than have won.

Jockey Florent Geroux will be making his first start on Noble Indy in the Kentucky Derby, though he has been aboard for a couple of workouts. The fact that it took so long to name a jockey aboard Noble Indy has to be considered a bit of a red flag, makes one think they hadn’t named a jockey yet because they were waiting to see if they were actually going to enter him in the biggest race for 3 year olds in North America. Geroux is most notable for being the rider of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, but has won over 1,200 races in his young career and earning over $70 million. He has won 4 Breeders’ Cup races, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Gun Runner. This will be his 3rd Derby mount; was aboard Sunland Derby winner Hence in last year’s edition and was aboard Gun Runner in 2016 for his solid 3rd place finish.

Noble Indy is co-owned by Winstar Farm LLC. and Mike Repole’s Repole Stable. Winstar Farm has already tasted Derby success, teaming up with Pletcher in 2010 with Super Saver. They also had Drosselmeyer who didn’t make that year’s Derby because he didn’t have the Graded Stakes Earnings to get in, but did end up winning that year’s edition of the Belmont Stakes. Drosselmeyer also went on to upset the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic when it was last ran at Churchill Downs. Winstar was named Outstanding Owner in the 2010 Eclipse Awards and was named Outstanding Breeder in 2016, the same year that Creator won the Belmont Stakes for them. Aside from Noble Indy, Winstar also owns in partnership fellow Derby probables Audible and Justify. Winstar CEO Elliot Walden was a former trainer himself, ironically he trained the previously mentioned Ecton Park  in the 1999 Kentucky Derby, as well as 2nd place finisher Menifee. Mike Repole and Repole Stable are best known as the owner of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2 year old Eclipse Champion Uncle Mo, who unfortunately would miss the 2011 Derby because of illness. Also owned 2011 Jim Dandy and Travers winner Stay Thirsty. In 2016, won the Wood Memorial with Outwork, who was the first crop of horses from Uncle Mo, and would go on to run in that year’s Derby. Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, and Outwork, as well as Noble Indy, were all trained by Uncle Mo.


On the surface Noble Indy has done very little wrong in his brief 4 race career, already winning a Grade 2 and Million Dollar race. However his Beyer numbers as well as his Thorgraph numbers are below several in here, and though his Beyers have improved every race, would need a nearly 10 point Beyer jump to put him in the conversation to win this year’s edition. Add to that the concerns with the distance limitations in his pedigree, and the fact that he’s has several strikes on my personal Derby checklist where having more than 1 strike qualifies a horse as unlikely to win(He has 4 strikes). On the positive side, does have good tactical speed and has been able to stalk and has showed grit in the lane, fighting back after being passed in the stretch. Also has a proven trainer and owner in this race as well as a jockey that has won several big races, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Despite this, and I know our founder Trackside Talk Mike is very high on Noble Indy, I cannot endorse him for the trifecta and see 4th place as his ceiling in this race. Sorry Mike. However, if you’re fond of him you will be well rewarded if you are proven correct, as Noble Indy should be between 20/1-30/1 come post time.

photos by Holly M. Smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)

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