Noble's Promise sharp for Ark. Derby

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. -- Trainer Ken McPeek wanted a sharp work from Noble's Promise in his final prep for the Arkansas Derby and he got his wish on Saturday morning, when the horse breezed five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80 at Oaklawn.

"It's ideal," McPeek said of the work. "It sets us up for the race."

The Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby will close out the Oaklawn meet this Saturday. Noble's Promise could go favored after finishing second by a head to champion Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel here March 13. The race was the first start of the year for Noble's Promise, who last fall won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. In the Arkansas Derby, he could face seven or eight rivals. Entries for the race will be drawn on Wednesday.

Noble's Promise worked first after the renovation break, under McPeek's assistant Walter Blum Jr. He eased into the move, with Oaklawn head clocker Jim Hamilton timing his opening quarter in 25.40 seconds on a track rated fast. Noble's Promise picked up steam approaching the quarter pole and finished well, with a final quarter in 23.60 seconds. The horse then galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.20. The move was the co-fastest of 23 at the distance.

Robby Albarado has the mount in the Arkansas Derby.

New Madrid, a possible starter in the Arkansas Derby, also breezed here Saturday after the renovation break, going five-eighths in 1:01.20 under Abel Castellano Jr.

"We're still considering it," said Tim Ice, who trains New Madrid, a strapping son of Rock Hard Ten. "We're going to see how it plays out this week. He worked good this morning. We're still 50-50."

New Madrid won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race here March 13, one start after finishing second to Endorsement, future winner of the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Park Derby, in a Feb. 20 maiden route at Oaklawn.

A flight Monday from Florida is expected to bring three horses for the Arkansas Derby: Super Saver, the winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher; Pulsion, the runner-up in the Grade 1 Norfolk at 2 who was sixth last out in the Florida Derby; and Tiz the One, an undefeated horse who owns the prospective field's best last-race Beyer Figure, a 101.

Dublin and Uh Oh Bango, who finished third and fourth last out in the Rebel, are also expected for the 1 1/8-mile race. The possibles include Line of David, based in Southern California with trainer John Sadler, and A Student, a recent allowance winner who would have to be supplemented to the race for $50,000.