06/17/2011 2:20PM

Calder: Noble's Promise thriving in new role

Barbara D. Livingston
Noble’s Promise is being pointed for the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 9, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

MIAMI – The Summit of Speed is still three weeks away, but one horse already committed to the program is Noble’s Promise, a onetime Triple Crown candidate who has found a second life as a sprinter under the tutelage of trainer Ken McPeek.

Noble’s Promise finished fifth after making the lead at the top of the stretch in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, but following a nice fifth-place effort in the St. James Palace Stakes one year ago at Ascot, McPeek gave him some time off and put him on a new career path, one that has worked out extremely well thus far.

Noble’s Promise, a son of Cuvee, has made four starts since the St. James, winning a pair of six-furlong stakes including Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Aristides by a length over a top-notch field on June 4. Now he has his eyes set on the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap here on July 9, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“He’s been rock-solid his whole career, but I’m nailing him down to sprint for this season, and hopefully we’ll get through the next couple of hurdles and get him to the big one in the fall,” McPeek said by phone from Louisville, Ky., referring to the Sprint, which will be decided at Churchill Downs for the second consecutive year.

McPeek said he may also send an old friend to ride Noble’s Promise in the six furlong Smile, the six-time Calder and Tropical-at-Calder riding champion, Manny Cruz, who left the comfort of south Florida this season to ride full time at the Churchill Downs spring meet at the behest of McPeek.

“Manny may ride Noble’s Promise for me, because he’s already coming down there anyway to handle some other mounts on that card,” said McPeek. “He’s always done a good job for me, and I’ve always told him he could come to Churchill any time and be fine. This year he finally pulled the trigger and decided to come north, and it’s worked out real good. I think he’s already won seven races for me here.”

Cruz had won 15 races overall heading into Friday evening’s card at Churchill, putting him eighth in the standings and just two outside the top five.

McPeek said he is also considering Salty Strike, whom Cruz rode to an easy win in the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes on June 4, for the Grade 3 Azalea here on the Summit of Speed undercard but is more likely going to aim her for the Mother Goose on June 25.

The Smile will share top billing on the Summit of Speed card along with the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. Calder’s stakes coordinator, Andy Camac, said he has already received commitments from Champagne d’Oro, winner of 2010 Grade 1 Test, and the Texas based speedster Cosmo Girl, for the race.

A couple of trainers based at Churchill Downs this spring will be sending a string this way for the first time just before or after the conclusion of the meeting on July 4. According to Calder’s racing secretary, Mike Anifantis, both Joe Woodard and Bernard Chatters have been allotted 15 stalls apiece here for the remainder of the summer, a welcome addition to a barn area which recently lost 35 horses due to the departure of trainer Nick Canani for Monmouth Park.