Noble Court, who Nakatani said lost a shoe early in the seven-furlong race, needed room on the turn after racing on the rail behind the front-running Half Famous. Nakatani slipped the Doneraile Courtcolt between the pacesetter and Law Breaker, who drifted out on the turn a bit, and Noble Court hit the stretch in front. Noble Court appeared to be heading toward an easy victory mid-stretch, but Law Breaker and Aaron Gryder slowly cut into the advantage. The challenger ran out of room after a long sustained drive, though, as they crossed the wire in 1:23 on a wet fast track.
"He was running a little green, but I was just patient, was able to slide through on the inside and was able to find a seam coming around the turn," Nakatani said. "I'd rather save ground and win the race than ask the horse to do too much and not win the race."
Half Famous, the longest shot in the five-horse field at 16-1, set solid fractions of :22 2/5 and :45 2/5 under Agapito Delgadillo and held on for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Law Breaker.
The task for the John Sadler-trained Noble Court was made easier before the start of the race when morning line favorite Major Pleasure was an early scratch by trainer Mike Pupe after more than a half-inch of rain overnight. Then second choice Hurry Up Austin (5-2) was scratched at the gate with what appeared to be a bent left hind shoe. With the loss of Hurry Up Austin, Noble Court's odds went from 6-5 to 3-5, and he went off a moment later at 4-5, paying $3.60, $2.20 and $2.10.
"He looked like he struggled with the track a little bit," said Sadler, who earned his 16th win at the meet, good for second in the trainer standings. "He was fighting it, but we’re happy to come out with a win on a surface he didn’t really love. It was a good race.”
Asked what was going through his mind in the stretch run, he said: “Wire.”
Sadler said Noble Court’s next race would be around two turns, probably in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles on March 17.
In his stakes debut Jan. 7, Noble Court ran third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the standout colt E Z Warrior and Hurry Up Austin, in the six-furlong San Miguel. Prior to that he broke his maiden by four lengths in a six-furlong test on the Hollywood Park Cushion Track Dec. 9 in his second start. Noble Court earned $90,000 Sunday for owner Chris Atkinson of Arcadia and his partners to run his career total to $131,600.
Brereton C. Jones bred Noble Court, who is out of the Grindstone mare Grey Dawn Grey, in Kentucky. The bay colt sold for $190,000 last March at Ocala.
Law Breaker, who has run outstandingly in all four of his career efforts while winning two for trainer Bob Baffert, returned $2.60 and $2.20.
Half Famous, who tired in the one-mile San Rafael (gr. II) in his last start after shipping into Southern California from Turf Paradise for trainer Dan McFarlane, paid $3 to show.
The late-running Vaunt made up good ground from last on the turn but flattened out in the stretch to finish fourth. Spanish Influence trailed.