04/01/2010 11:00PM

Noseda sticks to his own script

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Jeremy Noseda with Awesome Act, who can earn a Kentucky Derby berth with a good showing in the Wood Memorial.

It's only natural that as an Englishman, with a love for European racing, trainer Jeremy Noseda rates the historic Epsom Derby as the race he most covets. But having a great appreciation for American racing - and having trained here for two years - Noseda has a keen desire to participate in this country's greatest race, the Kentucky Derby.

"I think it might be as hard a race to win as any in the world," Noseda said. "It's a unique test, and it's a great race. I'd be thrilled just to have the opportunity to compete in it. That's why I've kept this horse."

This horse is Awesome Act, who in his first start on dirt burst onto the Triple Crown trail with a strong, off-the-pace run to win last month's Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Awesome Act, a son of American dirt specialist Awesome Again, can earn his spot in the Kentucky Derby with another solid performance in Saturday's Grade 1 Wood Memorial, also at Aqueduct.

The Wood, with Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya, and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, with 2009 juvenile champion Lookin' at Lucky, will both be televised live on NBC (5-6 p.m. Eastern). The other major Derby prep this weekend is the Illinois Derby, which Tuesday drew a field of eight led by Backtalk, American Lion, and Gotham runner-up Yawanna Twist.

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Noseda, 46, said the chance to have a starter in the Kentucky Derby is why he convinced his owners, Susan and Paul Roy, who are based in Europe, and Tom Ludt, president of the Kentucky-based Vinery Stable, to let him prepare Awesome Act in England at Noseda's Shalfleet yard in Newmarket.

"In the end, I just said I think I can do it," Noseda said. "And I'm obliged to them for giving me the opportunity to give it a go. We've taken one small step. We've still got a long way to go, but at least the one small step we've taken was a good one."

Ludt said Vinery has had a long-standing relationship with Noseda, having sent him horses for years to race in Europe. Ludt said that when Noseda approached him and the Roys about returning Awesome Act to Europe following his fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November, there was no argument.

"Jeremy knows what he's doing," Ludt said he told Paul Roy in a private discussion last November. "He's obviously trained over here. He wanted to take him over there and run him a few times and then bring him over here. I was more than happy with that. Paul was more than happy with it. Even though he didn't get to run over there, the way he ran in the Gotham, at this point we're still happy with the way it worked out."

Ludt confirmed Tuesday that Awesome Act would ultimately be transferred to an American-based trainer this year, perhaps after the Kentucky Derby.

Noseda's desire to hold onto Awesome Act for the Derby was probably borne 5 1/2 years ago, when, after he sent out Wilko to an upset victory in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star in his dirt debut. Wilko was sold before the Breeders' Cup and remained in America with trainer Craig Dollase. Wilko finished sixth in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and lost his last 18 starts after the Breeders' Cup.

Wilko's Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory may have been many American racing fans' introduction to Noseda, but Noseda had been familiar with American racing well before then. After working as an assistant to John Dunlop in Europe, Noseda came to America in the mid-1980s to work as an assistant to John Gosden in Southern California.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life as far as learning and seeing what racing was about in America," said Noseda, who turned down a chance to attend Cambridge University in England to pursue his goal of becoming a trainer. "It's maybe a harder place to train than Europe. It's tougher on the horses.

"I have a huge regard for American racing," he said. "To train here on these dirt tracks, in this type of environment, and keep horses at a pitch is an extremely hard thing. I have a huge admiration for the top American trainers. I think they're as good a horseman as anywhere in the world."

In late 1993, Noseda went to work for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, who was about to launch his Godolphin Racing operation. While with Godolphin, Noseda got to be around many top-class stakes horses, led by Lammtarra, who won the Epsom Derby, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the same year.

In 1995, Noseda turned down an opportunity to train for Sheikh Mohammed in France, although he was reluctant to say why.

"It's a political thing," he said. "I wouldn't enter into it. I made my decision for myself, and I have no doubt it was the right decision. In this life, I believe you have to be your own man as much as you can be, and that's what I wanted to be."

At the end of 1995, Noseda came to America with some horses for several owners, including some who raced under Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable banner. Noseda worked in Southern California for two years, training stakes winners Magic Feeling, Chequer, and Grafin.

At the end of 1997, a bit homesick, Noseda returned to England, where he opened a public stable. In 1998, Noseda won the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes with Wannabe Grand. Since then, he's won major European races with Araafa, Soldier's Tale, and Simply Perfect.

The chance to win one of America's classic races has Noseda excited. Though he is expecting Awesome Act to bounce, or regress slightly from the Gotham, he said he is confident Awesome Act will run well enough in the Wood Memorial to earn his spot in Kentucky.

"He's not compromised by his preparation by being in England or anything like that," Noseda said. "The question now is: Is he good enough? Has he the quality? For me, as long as he goes to the Wood and he finishes in the first three and he runs well, then I feel we'd be perfectly set for the Kentucky Derby."

WHO'S HOT

Dean's Kitten, Endorsement, and Mission Impazible all earned their way onto the top 20 of Derby Watch by virtue of their graded stakes victories last weekend. Dean's Kitten, who won the Lane's End Stakes, is 50-1 on the Kentucky Derby future line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. Endorsement got a solid endorsement from Watchmaker, who made him 20-1 following his victory in the Sunland Derby. Mission Impazible, who won the Louisiana Derby, is a 30-1 shot on Watchmaker's line.

WHO'S NOT

To make room for the three newcomers, three horses had to be dropped, including two who are running Saturday. Alphie's Bet is entered in the Santa Anita Derby, and Jackson Bend is scheduled to run in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Both were removed from the list because they are outside the top 20 in graded stakes earnings. If either wins, they go right back on a list that increasingly will be driven by graded stakes earnings the closer we get to May 1. Tempted to Tapit also was removed from the list after finishing third in the Sunland Derby, leaving him well down the graded stakes earnings list. Discreetly Mine, fourth as the favorite in the Louisiana Derby, is 50-1 on Watchmaker's line after being 30-1 a week ago. Conveyance, second as the favorite in the Sunland Derby, is 30-1 after being 20-1 last week.

ON THE BUBBLE

The winner of the Illinois Derby on Saturday will go right onto the Derby Watch list because first place in the race will put that horse into the top 20 in graded stakes earnings. Two former Derby Watch members, American Lion and Dave in Dixie, are in that field. - Jay Privman