Kentucky Derby contender profile: Nobel Prize

July 14th, 2020

Speed and stamina are two prerequisites for any horse hoping to vie for victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

But grit and determination are also important traits, and while handicappers can debate the merits of Nobel Prize from a talent standpoint, there is no doubt this Irish-bred sophomore has the tenacity of an elite racehorse.

A son of Europe’s dominant sire, Galileo, out of the Danehill mare Hveger, Nobel Prize races for breeder Coolmore and the Moffitt and Meduri Syndicate.

The bay colt hails from an extraordinarily productive family. His full brothers include Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner Highland Reel, Group 1 winner Cape of Good Hope, and Idaho, who placed in the Epsom Derby (G1) and Irish Derby (G1).

Under the care of acclaimed trainer Aidan O’Brien, Nobel Prize initially campaigned on turf. He broke his maiden third time out at Naas, then stretched out over 1 3/4 miles for the Queen’s Vase (G2) at Royal Ascot, where he finished fifth over soft going.

That effort prompted O’Brien to cut Nobel Prize back in distance for the 1 5/16-mile Ballysax (G3) over the synthetic Polytrack course at Dundalk in Ireland, a European Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race that awarded 30 qualification points to the winner.

Nobel Prize wasn’t favored to win. That honor went to stablemate Monarch of Egypt. But while his seemingly superior stable companion never challenged for victory, Nobel Prize ran a determined race from start to finish.

Jockey Killian Hennessy allowed Nobel Prize to carve out the early tempo and he opened up a daylight lead before the homestretch. Nobel Prize dug deep when challenged on all sides and refused to yield, despite weaving en route to the wire.

The stamina of Galileo clearly came through for Nobel Prize in the final strides, as he crossed the wire clear by a nose, in the time of 2:16.91. The victory would have vaulted Nobel Prize to the top of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, if not for the caveat that he hasn’t been nominated to the Triple Crown, though he can still be supplemented to the Kentucky Derby at a cost of $45,000.

Whether Nobel Prize’s connections will entertain a trip to Churchill Downs remains to be seen, though it’s certainly possible, considering O’Brien has saddled half a dozen Derby starters for Coolmore connections.

Switching to dirt would be another new obstacle for Nobel Prize, but given the frontrunning determination he displayed on Polytrack in the Ballysax, perhaps another surface switch is within reach for this improving youngster.