09/02/2017 6:37AM

Noble Nick set to fulfill prediction in Humboldt County Marathon


When trainer Ari Herbertson claimed Noble Nick for $16,000 on May 11 at Golden Gate Fields, he said he told his father, Scott, that they had a horse for the $20,000 C.J. Hindley Humboldt County Marathon at Ferndale.

Little did he know that Noble Nick, a 4-year-old Zensational gelding, would come into the Marathon on Monday following a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar.

As pleasing as the graded stakes placing was for the father and son, winning the Marathon might mean even more.

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Scott Herbertson has been attending races at Ferndale since his childhood and brought his son to see the Marathon many times. Scott won the race last year as part-owner of So Elite, also a $16,000 claim.

“The purse is not that great, but there’s something about the race,” said Ari Herbertson. “Everybody’s excited about it. My dad loves the Marathon. It’s a big deal for him.”

The 1 5/8-mile race goes around the Ferndale track four times.

Jonathan Wong, who saddled So Elite in the 2016 victory, says the race means a lot to Northern California owners and trainers.

“I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere,” Wong said.

Racing secretary Tom Doutrich assigned Noble Nick 131 pounds.

Said Doutrich: “This is a bucket-list race just like the Longacres Mile in Washington. Everyone wants to win it. It’s got tradition.”

Noble Nick has seven rivals in the race, including three - Presidentsky, Sir Vronski, and Unusually Big - trained by Quinn Howey.

Sir Vronski and Unusually Big are owned by Allen Aldrich, who may be the only Eclipse-winning owner (She’s a Tiger) to talk about Ferndale at the Eclipse Awards.

Ari Herbertson likes the way Noble Nick has handled the turns in gallops on the half-mile track, and says, “The farther he goes, the better he gets.”

But he’s seen plenty of surprises in the Marathon and adds, “You can’t take anything for granted.”