Robby Albarado, who rode Endorsement to an upset win in the Sunland Derby (gr. III) March 28 and is also the regular jockey for Noble's Promise , has committed to riding Endorsement for the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), WinStar Farm's racing manager Elliott Walden said April 13.
A decision on whether the Derby is a go for Noble’s Promise, who was banged up when finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and came out of the race with a lung infection, will likely be made by the end of the week, trainer Ken McPeek said. But regardless of his status, Albarado will stay aboard Endorsement.
“Robby is riding Endorsement,” Walden said. “He believes in the horse. He called me the day after the (Sunland Derby) and said the horse had a lot left.”
Endorsement, who was based at Fair Grounds with trainer Shannon Ritter, was recently shipped to Keeneland where he had his first work there April 9, clocking four furlongs in :46 4/5 on Polytrack. Walden said the son of Distorted Humor will have one more work at Keeneland before shipping to Churchill Downs April 18.
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Bred in Kentucky by Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership, Endorsement is 2-1-0 from four starts. He broke his maiden at third asking Feb. 20 at Oaklawn Park and seems to be improving with every start.
“We’ve always been high on him,” Walden said. “We sent him to Shannon because we felt New Orleans would be the best place for him to develop. He was a little behind, so we wanted him to break his maiden as soon as possible. He ran a good second (Jan. 10 at Fair Grounds) but then was scratched out of a race at Oaklawn (the second week of February). He missed a work, but we felt if we wanted to move forward we had to keep him going.”
Endorsement wound up getting that maiden win Feb. 20 at Oaklawn in a two-turn race, then he surprised many people with an 11-1 upset in the Sunland Derby when defeating previously unbeaten Conveyance. Walden admits the colt is a bit of an unknown entity going into the Derby, but he is cautiously optimistic about his chances.
“He seems to be thriving. He had a great work last time out,” Walden said. “He’s a little short on experience, but we think he at least can handle the crowd. He ran on two big days. When he broke his maiden it was Southwest day at Oaklawn and they had a good crowd. And they always get a big crowd for the Sunland Derby. We’re excited.”
WinStar looks like it will have four starters for Derby 136. Walden said a decision would be made on the rider for multiple graded stakes winner Rule later this week. Rule’s regular rider John Velazquez has committed to expected favorite Eskendereya. Super Saver , runner-up in the Arkansas Derby, will be ridden by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel, and David Flores will stay aboard Illinois Derby (gr. III) winner American Lion .
“We feel very blessed to be in this position,” Walden said. “We don’t have Eskendereya, but we’re coming in holding a good hand.”