Paddy Prendergast was a pioneering figure on the Irish racing scene. Having started his training career in County Kildare during World War II, the former jump jockey began to mount regular raids on major British two-year-old races in the early 1950s.
The brilliant Windy City led the way with victory in the Gimcrack in 1951. Two years later The Pie King became the first of the trainer’s six Coventry Stakes winners. By the end of the decade Prendergast had won races such as the Champagne Stakes, the Cheveley Park, the Lowther, the Norfolk, the Queen Mary and the Richmond Stakes.
In 1960 he saddled Martial to become the first Irish-trained winner of the 2,000 Guineas. In the same year came the foaling of a filly – sold in utero by Stanhope Joel – by Mossborough, the sire of Vincent O’Brien’s 1958 Arc winner Ballymoss, out of Duke’s Delight.
Bought as a yearling for 4,200gns by the Anglo-Irish Bloodstock Agency, Noblesse was sent into training with Prendergast to carry the colours of Evelyn Olin, second wife of John Merrill Olin, an Illinois-born chemical engineer and inventor who specialised in the design and manufacture of arms and ammunition.
A member of a juvenile team that included the Molecomb winner Royal Indiscretion and Whistling Wind, who won the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes at Sandown, Noblesse had established a significant reputation on the Curragh gallops prior to her debut in the Blue Seal Stakes.
After she won that Ascot event by a comfortable five lengths, Prendergast was sufficiently encouraged to send her back to England to take on the colts in the Timeform Gold Cup, inaugurated the previous year at the instigation of Phil Bull as Europe’s richest two-year-race.
Ridden by the Australian Garnie Bougoure, Ireland’s champion jockey in 1960, she won readily by three lengths. She remains the only filly to have won the race now known as the Racing Post Trophy.
On the strength of just two races, Noblesse was named champion British and Irish juvenile filly. Following a bad winter and cold spring, Prendergast did not have time to prepare her for the 1,000 Guineas. Instead, she made a winning seasonal debut in the third running of the Musidora Stakes at York, accounting for Partholon and the Royal Lodge winner Star Moss in smooth fashion.
Returning for the Oaks, she was sent off the 4-11 favourite. Always going well, she accelerated when asked by Bougoure a furlong out to win by ten lengths from the 1,000 Guineas runner-up Spree. Bougoure claimed she could have doubled the margin and several experienced observers suggested her performance was good enough to have beaten the brilliant Relko in the 1963 Derby.
A minor hock injury forced Noblesse to miss the King George and in her place Prendergast sent over Irish Derby winner Ragusa, who proved an able deputy, beating 1961 Timeform Gold Cup winner Miralgo.
The Arc was now the target for the filly, who returned to action in the Prix Vermeille with Lester Piggott aboard. Failing to find anything like the blistering acceleration she had shown in her previous races, she managed only third. She was found to be lame and was retired.
Timeform described the 133-rated champion three-year-old filly in glowing terms: “In the first four of her races she hardly needed to gallop seriously for more than fifty yards, and yet she won all of them by a wide margin, and her turn of foot was something to marvel at.”
She was perhaps the best filly ever trained in Ireland, although Irish racegoers never got an opportunity to see her in action.