John Oxley's Noble Bird rebounded from a disappointing effort at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier with a dominant victory in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (gr. III) May 20 at Pimlico Race Course. Watch Video
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Mark Casse, Noble Bird broke well, took the early lead away from longshot Warrioroftheroses entering the first turn, and wasn't threatened thereafter in a field reduced to six after two key scratches.
Noble Bird, the only grade I winner in the Special—he won the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill in June last year—finished eighth and last as the favorite in the May 6 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill after a poor start and wide trip. His connections opted to draw a line through that race and bring the 5-year-old Birdstone horse back in two weeks.
Noble Bird established command after an opening-quarter mile in :23.53 and gradually increased his advantage through a half-mile in :47.48 and six furlongs in 1:12.12. His winning margin was 11 1/4 lengths over Idolo Porteno, who raced in fourth for most of the race.
Idolo Porteno had six lengths on Warrioroftheroses, who raced in second until mid-stretch. He finished third, with Savoy Stomp fourth.
Noble Bird covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.18 on a track rated fast. He paid $3.60 to win.
"The last time I rode him, he didn't break good," Leparoux said. "This time I learned from that. I thought just be patient with him. The key for today was to let him alone, and he relaxed beautifully."
"It was the exact opposite of what happened to him last time," Casse said. "I've been doing this for 37 years and he's one of the toughest horses I've ever trained. After his last race I said, 'No, he's the toughest.' He makes good riders look bad."
Noble Bird, out of the Tiznow mare Anyhow, was bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain. He is a $105,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale purchase who has now earned $755,785 on a record of five wins and four seconds in 15 starts.
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Stanford, indicated soon after entries were taken he would run only one horse, and that ended up being Savoy Stomp. The morning of the race, trainer Mary Eppler scratched Page McKenney because of filling in a tendon.