'Promise' has tuneup for Ark. Derby

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Noble's Promise, who could go favored in the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, breezed five furlongs for the race Friday morning at Oaklawn. Trainer Ken McPeek flew in from Florida for the move, which was the first of two the horse is scheduled to have before the April 10 race. McPeek also had Beautician out on the track for some speed work, and he said she is set to make her next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn.

The Fantasy, to be run on Friday, April 2, will open the annual Racing Festival of the South. The festival comprises nine stakes worth at least $2.8 million over the final six dates of the meet. The Oaklawn season wraps up with the Arkansas Derby.

Noble's Promise could go favored in the race. Champion Lookin At Lucky, who edged out Noble's Promise in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel, is leaning toward making his next start in the Santa Anita Derby.

Noble's Promise worked first after the renovation break, going in 1:02.80 in hand under regular exercise rider Walter Blum Jr.

"He just needed a maintenance breeze," said McPeek. "I would have like to seen him go a little quicker the whole workout, but I like the way he finished, and I like the way he's coming back. Like I said, it was a maintenance breeze. We need a little sharper one next time."

Oaklawn clocker Jim Hamilton timed Noble's Promise through an opening eighth of a mile in 13.20 seconds, and proceeded to catch the horse through an opening quarter in 27 seconds, three furlongs in 39, a half-mile in 51.40, and galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.40.

McPeek said Robby Albarado has the mount in the Arkansas Derby.

Beautician also worked under Blum, going five furlongs in 1:00.80. The runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, she will be part of a strong Fantasy field. Others considered probable are Blind Luck, a multiple Grade 1 winner; No Such Word, who captured the Grade 3 Honeybee to remain perfect in two-turn races at Oaklawn; and Tidal Pool, who put up a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 last out winning an allowance at Oaklawn. Tidal Pool is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who said Calvin Borel has the mount in the Fantasy.

The festival action will continue on Saturday, April 3, with the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap. Win Willy, who took the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn, breezed for the race Friday. Oaklawn will not race on Easter Sunday, then will continue with festival stakes on its next race date, Wednesday, April 7. The Grade 1 Apple Blossom, which is expected to draw champion Zenyatta, will be run on April 9.

There are two scheduled flights coming in from California, said Oaklawn's stakes coordinator, Craig Lytel. The first is due Tuesday, March 30, and the second April 6. There also could be a flight coming in from Florida.