Chasing Dreams Racing 2008’s favored Noble’s Promise, the fifth-place finisher behind Super Saver in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, returned to Churchill Downs on Saturday and wore down Atta Boy Roy in the stretch to score a one-length victory in the star-studded 23rd running of the $110,300 Grade III Aristides Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
The victory by Noble’s Promise completed a memorable day for trainer Ken McPeek, who swept Saturday’s pair of featured Grade III races at the home of the Kentucky Derby. McPeek also saddled Salty Strike to win the $109,300 Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies earlier in the day.
Noble’s Promise, one of three Grade I stakes winners in the eight-horse field for the Aristides, rallied from fourth under jockey Alan Garcia and paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.40. Atta Boy Roy, the Aristides runner-up for the second consecutive year, led most of the way under Jesus Castanon before giving way in the final yards and returned mutuels of $11.00 and $5.40. Capt. Candyman Can, who broke slowly under Calvin Borel, rallied in the stretch to finish a clear third and paid $2.40 to show.
The winner scored his first graded stakes victory since a win in Keeneland’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity in October of 2009. He had won last fall’s $85,000 Jimmy V Stakes during Breeders’ Cup Weekend at Churchill Downs. In his previous start, Noble’s Promise had finished a close fifth to Aikenite in his first start of the year in the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day.
The Aristides victory improved the career record of Noble’s Promise to 5-3-1 in 14 races and made the son of Cuvee racing’s latest millionaire. The winner’s prize of $66,336 pushed his career earnings to $1,027,774. The Aristides victory was the second for McPeek, who won the race in 2009 with Bold Start. The winner covered six furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.74.
“It’s always fun to win two stakes in one day,” McPeek said. “He’s a nice horse and now he’s a millionaire. There were some other nice horses in the race, but I thought they would have a tough time beating him today.”
Noble’s Promise joined third-place finisher Capt. Candyman Can and Here Comes Ben, who finished sixth, as Grade I stakes winners in the strong Aristides field. The field also included the 1-2-3 finishers in the 2010 Aristides in Riley Tucker, Atta Boy Roy (who also won the Grade II Churchill Downs over the track in 2010) and Cash Refund. Hurricane Ike won the Grade III The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial in 2010.
Cash Refund blew out of the starting gate to take the early lead in the Aristides, but was joined after the opening quarter by Atta Boy Roy, who had the lead at the half-mile in a swift :44.46, and Noble’s Promise moved under Garcia to join the leading duo. Capt. Candyman Can, Here Comes Ben, and Riley Tucker all broke slowly, with the former making the steadiest progress of that trio as the battle continued on the front end. Atta Boy Roy and Castanon pushed clear of Noble’s Promise and Cash Refund at the top the stretch, but Garcia sent the eventual winner after the leader and Capt. Candyman Can launched a bid on the far outside. The top pair battled through the latter part of the stretch before the stubborn Atta Boy Roy gave way late and Noble’s Promise pushed clear.
Good Lord, the second longest shot in the field at 34-1, hopped at the start but rallied to finish fourth, three lengths behind Capt. Candyman Can. He was followed past the finish by Riley Tucker, Here Comes Ben, Hurricane Ike and early pacesetter Cash Refund.
ARISTIDES POST-RACE QUOTES
Alan Garcia, jockey on Noble’s Promise (winner)
“It was a very good trip for me and my horse. I was able to keep him relaxed behind the leaders in third. Finally I asked him at the top of the stretch and he ran very well. I had plenty of confidence in my horse and I knew he was going to win. It was definitely worth the trip (to Churchill Downs).”
Ken McPeek, trainer of Noble’s Promise (winner)
“I felt like he (Noble’s Promise) could improve three or four lengths off his last race. That race (the Churchill Downs (GII)) was a tough one coming off a layoff so we backed off him since then. He’s a nice horse and now he’s a millionaire. There were some other nice horses in the race, but I thought they would have a tough time beating him today.”
“I think we did a good job of trying to stretch him out for the Triple Crown last year. He only got beat six lengths in the (Kentucky) Derby (GI), but we were really stretching him out as far as he could go and he didn’t embarrass us, but running that far wasn’t his game. I think he’s found his niche with sprinting. I’d love to run him in the Vanderbilt (GI on Aug. 7) and the Forego (GI on Sept. 3) at Saratoga and then bring him back here in the fall for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”
On winning both stakes on the card:
“It’s always fun to win two stakes in one day.”
Valorie Lund, trainer of Atta Boy Roy (runner-up)
“He ran really well. If we didn’t have to hook that other horse the result might have been different, but somebody’s got to go after Cash Refund. You can’t leave him alone on the lead.”
Q: Are you thinking fall and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint again with this horse?
“That’s what I’m thinking. We’ll have to take it step-by-step, but that would be what I’m thinking because I think he’s every bit as good this year as last. We’ll just go on through the season and battle through the summer.”
Q: What were you thinking at the head of the stretch?
“I thought he might hold him (Noble’s Promise) off. I could see that horse coming and I’m thinking, ‘We’ve already done an awful lot of work up here.’ He almost held on. Jesus said he was so incredibly game and a classy horse – and, of course, I like to hear that.”
Q: But you knew that …
“Oh yes, I knew it. But I still like to hear it. I’m like a proud mother.”
Q: Will he stay here or will you ship back to Canterbury?
“We’ll go back to Canterbury and train over that surface. It’s a real kind surface, plus he swims. So they’ve got a pool there. They’ve got a kind surface and I like it – it’s nice and deep, so he gets a lot out of it. It’s a great surface to train on, so I’ll train him there and ship.”
Jesus Castanon, jockey on Atta Boy Roy (runner-up)
“He ran big and he gave a good kick. He was doing it easy and when I got to the quarter-pole I let him pick it up and he really gave me a nice kick, but we just got beat. When the other horse (winner Noble’s Promise) came to me with about 70 yards to go, my horse was trying so hard to keep up with that one.”
Ian Wilkes, trainer of Capt. Candyman Can (third)
“He ran good. He broke a little bad today. He stood in the gate a long time. You can’t break that bad. You have to be able to jump and run.”
Q: You had a little hope at the head of the stretch …
“He used himself to get into position. He ran good. You can’t complain. He brings his ‘A’ game.”
Calvin Borel, jockey on Capt. Candyman Can (third)
“He didn’t break that good and I was kind of disgusted with that, but he showed up and he tries hard. I thought I might get ‘em at the head of the stretch, but he kind of faltered there. But he tried. These are good horses.”