John Oxley’s Noble Bird took the lead out of the starting gate in Saturday’s G2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes, then repelled a challenge from Divining Rod to win going away by 5 3/4 lengths at the wire. The 5-year-old son of Birdstone, ridden by Julien Leparoux, set a new track record over Keeneland‘s fast main track, getting the nine furlongs in 1:47.75 for trainer Mark Casse.
“I think we are figuring him out a little bit,” said Casse’s son and assistant, Norm. “He is a horse that if there is a lot of speed in the race he is a little bit more compromised. We have to pick races where he can take things on his own and that is what we did today. We were actually just trying to get him a race today and really point to the Clark (G1) (at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25).”
Noble Bird broke sharply for Leparoux, leaving the gates on top of the field to take an easy lead heading into the first turn. After a first quarter in :23.53, Noble Bird extended his lead to about four lengths over Kasaqui, marking the half-mile in :46.70. Kasaqui was joined in his pursuit of the frontrunner by Divining Rod and Mr. Z, and entering the far turn Divining Rod took up the second spot from Kasaqui.
Turning for home, Divining Rod was cutting into Noble Bird’s lead considerably, reducing the gap to just a length at the top of the stretch. Noble Bird, however, responded to Leparoux’s urging and sprinted away from Divining Rod toward the wire, drawing away well late to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Divining Rod had to settle for second, with Hawaakom getting up for third. Mr. Z hung in for fourth.
“I just left him alone,” Leparoux said. “He ran his race and in the stretch I tried to encourage him. I knew we were going fast and when I asked him, he came on nice at the end. It was a good race. I didn’t know (he set a track record), but when this horse is on his ‘A’ game and everything is good for him, he’s a very nice horse for sure.”
Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain, Noble Bird was a $ 105,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. Since then, he has gone on to win multiple graded stakes, including the G1 Stephen Foster last June at Churchill Downs. Noble Bird will be pointed to the Stephen Foster at Churchill at the end of November. The Fayette win improves Noble Bird’s record to 7-4-0 from 18 starts, with earnings of over $ 1.06 million.
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