John Oxley's Noble Bird captured the 46th running of the Grade 3 Sagamore Spirit Pimlico Special easily on Friday afternoon, dominating his rivals by 11 1/4 lengths.The 5-year-old son of Birdstone covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.18 for trainer Mark Casse, with the race marking just his second lifetime graded stakes victory.
“It was the exact opposite of what happened to him last time,” said Casse.” Before his last start, I told a couple news people that I've been doing this for 37 years and he's one of the toughest horses I've ever trained. After his last race, 'No, he's the toughest.' He makes good riders look bad. He's so sensitive about his mounts. As a 2-year-old, I told Mr. Oxley that this horse was going to win the Kentucky Derby, that's the ability that he displayed. He's his own worst enemy. Today? That's how good he is. They went the half-mile in 47 (seconds) and Julien (Leparoux) thought they went in 50. He's just a really talented horse.”
Julien Leparoux broke sharply aboard Noble Bird, and allowed the horse to go to the lead, his preferred running style. The pair felt immediate pressure from longshot Warrioroftheroses, who stuck his head in front entering the first turn through a quarter in :23.53. Rather than fighting with Noble Bird, who has a tendency to be rank when not on the lead, Leparoux allowed him a bit of rein to take the front spot once again. Noble Bird jumped out to a two-length margin, marking the next fractions in :47.48 and 1:12.12, as he was chased by Warrioroftheroses, Savoy Stomp and Idolo Porteno.
As he led the field into the stretch, Leparoux asked his mount to stretch his legs a bit, and suddenly Noble Bird had a five-length lead. Hand-ridden to the wire, Noble Bird extended the margin to 11 1/4 lengths, easing up late. Idolo Porteno made a closing bid to be the best of the rest, while Warrioroftheroses was able to maintain his speed for a third-place finish. Savoy Stomp finished fourth.
“The last time I rode him he didn't break good,” said Leparoux. “This time I learned from that. I thought just be patient with him. The key for today was to let him alone. He relaxed beautifully. I tried to sit behind [Warrioroftheroses] but he wanted to go. He likes being out front looking at everything.”
Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain, Noble Bird was a $105,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Sale. Since that time, he has recorded five wins and four seconds from 15 career starts. bankrolling just over $750,000. His most notable win was in last fall's Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, where he was an $11.40 winner.
Scratched from the Pimlico Special on Thursday morning, the likely favorite Stanford will instead point for the Met Mile on the Belmont undercard. Local favorite, millionaire Page McKenney, who would have been heavily supported at the windows, was removed from consideration Friday morning. Trainer Mary Eppler reported to that the gelding had some minor filling in a tendon, and would receive two weeks of stall rest before an ultrasound will be performed.
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