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Noble Bird Heads Field of Eight in Fayette

Headstrong grade I winner enters off win in Lukas Classic.

What one gets from John Oxley's Noble Bird  in his race result often depends on what mood the son of Birdstone  is in at that moment.

On his better days, the grade I winner can deliver efforts like the 11 1 /4-length clinic he put on in the May 20 Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. III). Other times, he leaves trainer Mark Casse exasperated in the wake of such off-the-board outings as his Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) run and Whitney Stakes (gr. I) start.

LAMARRA: Noble Bird Returns to Form in Pimlico Special

The Noble Bird who turns jockey Julien Leparoux into a happy passenger is the one his connections hope shows up Oct. 29, when he headlines a field of eight entered in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (gr. II) on the final day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Raw talent has always been something Noble Bird owned in ample supply. Getting the 5-year-old to consistently harness it has been another story. Last June, he defeated fellow grade I winners Lea , Hoppertunity, and Majestic Harbor  in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), but has only won two of eight starts since that time. 

BALAN: Noble Bird Secures BC Bid with Foster Victory

His latest start was trademark Noble Bird, a gate-to-wire 1 1/2-length win in the Oct. 1 Lukas Classic going 1 1/8 miles at Churchill Downs. With little other true speed in the Fayette field, the chestnut colt should have a clear path to the lead in the early going should he break out of post 2 in good order.

"He's at the top of his game right now, " Casse told Keeneland's Tom Leach. "He's kind of (weird). He's very tough to ride. He's kind of moody, but he's doing very well. If he runs his last race, he's going to be tough. If someone gets in his way, he'll run them over."

The  1 1/8-mile Fayette has a handful of its entrants trying to break back through into form.

Lael Stables' Divining Rod  scored his first graded stakes win at Keeneland last year when he won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) en route to finishing third to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah  in the Xpressbet Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Since returning, after being sidelined for nearly a year due to injury, the 4-year-old son of Tapit  has notched a pair of allowance victories at Parx Racing.

Grade III winner Kasaqui will test his ability on the main track after six consecutive starts on the grass, with his most recent effort a fifth-place finish in the Oct. 8 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. 

Hard knocking graded stakes winner Prayer For Relief  is set to make his return to North American racing for the first time since running fourth in the 2015 Donn Handicap (gr. I). The 8-year-old son of Jump Start has been campaigned in Dubai for his last six starts.
Stakes winner Mr. Z , Iron Fist, Chocopologie, and Hawaakom round out the field.

Entries: Hagyard Fayette S. (G2)

Keeneland, Saturday, October 29, 2016, Race 9

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 5:30 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Hawaakom (KY)Miguel Mena121Wesley E. Hawley8/1
22Noble Bird (KY)Julien R. Leparoux123Mark E. Casse6/5
33Kasaqui (ARG)Robby Albarado121Ignacio Correas, IV6/1
44Mr. Z (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJames Graham121D. Wayne Lukas10/1
55Chocopologie (LA)Colby J. Hernandez121Patrick Devereux, Jr.30/1
66Prayer for Relief (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie121Dale L. Romans6/1
77Iron Fist (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.121Steven M. Asmussen5/1
88Divining Rod (KY)Florent Geroux121Arnaud Delacour5/1