NOBLE'S PROMISE (Cuvee) held the lead in the stretch of Oaklawn Park's Rebel S. (G2) on March 13 while making his seasonal bow, but was just caught on the wire and nipped by a head for the victory that day. Three lengths farther back in that 1 1/16-mile test came DUBLIN (Afleet Alex), and the pair will pick up where they left on Saturday in the feature event of the Oaklawn meet, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1).
The Kenny McPeek-trained Noble's Promise racked up three straight wins last year, breaking his maiden on the turf at Ellis Park before capturing the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile S. at Presque Isle Downs and Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (G1) over those tracks' respective synthetics. The bay colt was not only making his seasonal debut in the Rebel last out, but he was also trying a conventional dirt surface for the first time. He had Robby Albarado aboard for that experience, and will get the rider back in the saddle Saturday while going for yet another first -- making his initial start at nine furlongs.
While Dublin will be also debuting at 1 1/8 miles in the Arkansas Derby, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee has spent his entire career running on dirt surfaces across the country. Though his last win came in the Hopeful S. (G1) at Saratoga in September, the chestnut colt has been doing well in two races this year. He ran second by three parts of a length in the Southwest S. (G3) at Oaklawn before going in the Rebel, and hasn't stopped firing bullets over the track since mid-February. Jockey Terry Thompson, who was in the saddle for the Southwest, will retake the mount.
Like Noble's Promise, SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon) ran an exceptional race in his belated three-year-old bow last out, finishing a half-length back in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) after dueling throughout. The Todd Pletcher runner obviously needed the tightening that event provided and is the likely pacesetter here. Super Saver will reunite with Calvin Borel, who guided the bay to a five-length trouncing in last season's Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2).
Lane's End S. (G2) runner-up NORTHERN GIANT (Giant's Causeway), Rebel fourth UH OH BANGO (Top Hit) and Grade 1-placed PULSION (Include) are the only other runners in the Arkansas Derby with prior stakes experience. Two of the remaining three entrants -- NEW MADRID (Rock Hard Ten) and BERBERIS (Southern Image) -- broke their maidens in their last race while California shipper LINE OF DAVID (Lion Heart) scored in a turf allowance.