03/31/2010 11:00PM

Noble's Promise improving on dirt

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Noble's Promise could have his final work for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, depending on the weather at Oaklawn, trainer Ken McPeek said. Noble's Promise has been based here since finishing second by a head to champion Lookin At Lucky in the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel on March 13. Noble's Promise could go favored in the Arkansas Derby on April 10.

The 1 1/8-mile race had eight early possibles as of Thursday, including Dublin, the third-place finisher in the Rebel, and Super Saver, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club winner coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.

McPeek targeted the Oaklawn route to the Kentucky Derby with Noble's Promise in large part because the race is on dirt. A top candidate for next month's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Noble's Promise is a two-time stakes winner on synthetic tracks. He won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on Polytrack last fall at Keeneland, and finished third by a half-length in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.

"I thought that running over this track would be comparable to Churchill," McPeek said. "He's run on synthetics repeatedly, and we needed to see how good he was on the dirt."

McPeek believes Noble's Promise is a better horse on dirt, and the numbers back that up. Noble's Promise earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for his Rebel in his first dirt start. Robby Albarado was aboard and has the mount for the Arkansas Derby.

Others expected for the race include Pulsion, sixth in the Florida Derby, and Uh Oh Bango, runner-up in the Grade 3, $750,000 Delta Jackpot. Tiz the One, an undefeated horse based in Florida, will fly in Monday for the Arkansas Derby, trainer Chad Brown said. He is to be ridden by Alan Garcia, who was aboard Tiz the One for a first-level allowance score in March for which he earned a 101 Beyer.

Line of David, winner of his last two starts, both at Santa Anita, is possible for the Arkansas Derby, trainer John Sadler said. The flight from California is set for Tuesday. A Student, an allowance winner at Oaklawn, is another looking at the race as is local New Madrid. New Madrid won his maiden last month, one start after finishing second to Endorsement in a maiden special weight here Feb. 20.

"The horse that beat us came back and won the Sunland Derby," said Tim Ice, who trains New Madrid. "We didn't run second to a slouch by any means. I feel like this colt is moving forward. We have a legitimate reason to think about it. It all depends on who comes in, and we'll take it from there. We're considering it, but we're not 100 percent."

The Arkansas Derby is the marquee event during the Racing Festival of the South, when Oaklawn runs nine stakes worth $2.8 million over the final week of its meet. The season closes with the Arkansas Derby, which will be drawn Wednesday. The race is to be broadcast on NBC.

Zenyatta, the undefeated champion older female, is expected for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 9. Entries will be drawn Tuesday. Her owner, Jerry Moss, is the guest on Saturday's Oaklawn Handicapper's Hour. An interview with him will air at oaklawn.com at 9:07 a.m. Central.

Duke of Mischief tough at his best

Duke of Mischief has come to Hot Springs for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap and can go home a winner with a repeat of his January effort in the Grade 3 Ft. Lauderdale at Gulfstream. He was up for a neck win, earning a 103 Beyer. The performance was one of his best, behind his five-length win in last summer's $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.

"Both of those races, if he runs back to those numbers he ought to be real tough," said David Fawkes, who trains Duke of Mischief. "That's what we're hoping."

Fawkes has approached the Oaklawn start with Duke of Mischief a little differently than his last race, when he finished eighth in the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 6. The Donn came about a month after the horse's big effort in the Ft. Lauderdale.

"It might have been a little quick back for him," Fawkes said. "I think he likes a little time in between races. We gave it to him, and you can see a big difference in him this time. He's sharper this time."

* There is no racing here Sunday in observance of Easter.