Keeneland fall meet leaders Mark Casse and Julien Leparoux closed out the meet in style Saturday courtesy of John Oxley’s Noble Bird (Birdstone), who set a new track record of 1:47.75 for 1 1/8 miles with a wire-to-wire victory in the GII Hagyard Fayette S. Breaking sharply from the two-hole, the chestnut skipped out to an early lead, ticking off an opening quarter in :23.53 and a half in :46.70 while well clear of the field. Last year’s GIII Coolmore Lexington S. hero Divining Rod (Tapit) began to close the gap a bit rounding the far turn, but Noble Bird had plenty left in the tank and swiftly cruised clear of that foe in the stretch to win by an easy 5 3/4 lengths. It was Casse’s fourth stakes win of the meet and third meet title.
“I think we are figuring him out a little bit,” said Norm Casse, assistant to his father. “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 [GI] Clark [H. Nov. 25].”
“I just left him alone,” remarked Leparoux, who won his 11th meet title. “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.”
Picked out by Casse as a yearling at F-T July, Noble Bird made amends for a head second in Churchill’s GII Alysheba S. last May with a neck victory over GISW Lea (First Samurai) in the GI Stephen Foster H. last June. He failed to fire next out when ninth behind champion Honor Code (A.P. Indy) in the GI Whitney S. a month later and was shelved for the year.
Returning as the even-money favorite in an Oaklawn optional claimer Feb. 21, the chestnut was a lackluster sixth, but improved to second next out in this venue’s GIII Ben Ali S. Apr. 16. A head-scratching eighth as the chalk in this year’s Alysheba May 6, he romped by 11 1/4 lengths in the GIII Pimlico Special S. two weeks later. Sixth next out behind a sensational performance from Frosted (Tapit) in the GI Metropolitan H. June 11, Noble Bird was fifth to that rival in the GI Whitney S. Aug. 6 and rebounded with a front running victory in Churchill’s nine-furlong Lukas Classic last time Oct. 1.
Bloodstock agent Larkin Armstrong purchased the winner’s dam Anyhow on behalf of breeder Jack Swain for $95,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November sale carrying her first foal Brother Pat (Any Given Saturday), a Group 1 winner in Puerto Rico. A half-sister to GSW Mythical Gem (Jade Hunter), Anyhow’s second foal was GSP Dido (Bernstein) and Noble Bird was lucky number three. The 12-year-old mare’s most recent produce includes the unraced juvenile filly Striking Damsel (Smart Strike), who RNA’d for $290,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale; the yearling colt Verse (Tale of the Cat), a $285,000 RNA at this year’s KEESEP auction; and a filly by More Than Ready born Apr. 29 of this year. She was bred back to Speightstown.
HAGYARD FAYETTE S.-GII, $200,000, KEE, 10-29, 3yo/up,
1 1/8m, 1:47.75 (NTR), ft.
1–NOBLE BIRD, 123, h, 5, by Birdstone
1st Dam: Anyhow, by Tiznow
2nd Dam: Charlotte Augusta, by Chief’s Crown
3rd Dam: Noble Damsel, by Vaguely Noble
($105,000 Ylg ’12 FTKJUL). O-John C. Oxley; B-Jack Swain (KY);
T-Mark E. Casse; J-Julien R. Leparoux. $120,000. Lifetime
Record: GISW, 19-7-4-0, $1,064,945. *1/2 to Brother Pat (Any
Given Saturday), G1SW-PR, $280,734; and Dido (Bernstein),
GSP, $165,592. Werk Nick Rating: A+. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Divining Rod, 121, c, 4, Tapit–Precious Kitten, by Catienus.
O-Lael Stables; B-M. Roy Jackson (KY); T-Arnaud Delacour.
$40,000.3–Hawaakom, 121, g, 6, Jazil–Nafisah (Ire), by Lahib. O-Stephan
H. Smoot & Wesley E. Hawley; B-Shadwell Farm, LLC (KY);
T-Wesley E. Hawley. $20,000.
Margins: 5 3/4, 5 3/4, 4HF. Odds: 1.00, 4.10, 11.70.
Also Ran: Mr. Z, Prayer for Relief, Iron Fist, Chocopologie, Kasaqui (Arg).
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.