Noble Bird, Prayer for Relief Fill Out Pegasus Lineup


Noble Bird | Coady photo


Prayer for Relief (Jump Start) and Noble Bird (Birdstone) have been added to the prospective starting field for the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational, which means that all 12 shareholders in the Jan. 28 race now have filled their allotted slots. There remains a chance the Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) could still make the race and substitute for one of the announced starters, but he remains in quarantine at the Fair Grounds and his chances of getting out grow slimmer by the day. Ahmed Zayat owns Prayer For Relief and has joined forces with Rosedown Racing Stables, an original slot holder. Zayat is realistic about his chances of winning the $12-million race. When told that his horse would be 75-1, Zayat said, “No. No, he'll be at least 100-1.” Prayer for Relief's greatest asset is his durability. He is still racing at age 9 and has made 45 career starts. The bad news is that he has lost 20 straight races. His last win came in the Dec. 21, 2013 Tenacious Handicap at the Fair Grounds. Zayat said he was encouraged to explore a start in the Pegasus after Prayer for Relief worked five furlongs in 59.25 Saturday at Gulfstream. “The horse is sound, happy and fit,” Zayat said. “He is probably one of the most fun horses I have ever owned because of his tenacity and his demeanor. Look at how many starts he has had. He makes every dance. After his work the other day the clockers were raving and I asked [trainer] Dale [Romans] what he thought and he said this was the best the horse had ever been doing.” That said, Zayat understands he has very little chance of winning. “I am not delusional,” he said. “Do I think he will win? No. I am hoping he will run well and not embarrass us. In his last race [a ninth-place finish in the GI Clark H.], he hates Churchill Downs, so you can throw that race out. Yes, the chance at a $12-million purse is important, but we're also doing this to support the sport, support an innovative concept and to have some fun.” Zayat would not disclose any details of the financial arrangement between him and Rosedown, but said, “Sometimes, we all do things that are not rational from an economic standpoint. This was not done as a financial decision.” Noble Bird is also coming out of the Clark, where he finished seventh for trainer Mark Casse and owner John Oxley. However, he has far stronger credentials than Prayer for Relief does as he is a four-time stakes winner and won the Clark in 2015. Oxley worked out a deal to partner with slotholders Moustapha Fostock, Earle I. Mack and Chester Broman, Sr. “If I said to you you had a 20-1 shot with a chance to win a $12-million race wouldn't you take that shot?” trainer Mark Casse said. “I tend be a realistic person. I'll wake up that morning and probably think I hope we finish third, but I'm not going to think that winning the race is impossible. I've had crazier things happen to me in racing.” The problem with Noble Bird is that he is erratic and seems to only run his best when able to get to the lead. Casse admitted his plan will be to try to win the race in front-running fashion, which should guarantee an honest pace and could cause some problems for the two biggest names in the race, Arrogate (Unbridled's Song) and California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), two horses that also like to race near the front end. “We've learned that when you fight with him he shuts off, so we have to let him roll,” Casse said. “I don't see where we have any other choice. We've just figured out he's got to go and that's because he has to have his own way and he likes to roll.” The other eight horses confirmed for the Pegasus are Breaking Lucky (Lookin at Lucky), Shaman Ghost (Ghostzapper), Keen Ice (Curlin), Neolithic (Harlan's Holiday), Eragon (Arg) (Offlee Wild), War Story (Northern Afleet), War Envoy (War Front), and Ralis (Square Eddie).

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