05/20/2016 3:59PM

Noble Bird dominates Pimlico Special

Debra A. Roma
Noble Bird, ridden by Julien Leparoux, wins the Pimlico Special by 11 1/4 lengths Friday.

BALTIMORE – Noble Bird's powerful victory Friday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special was especially sweet for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux as it helped erase the unpleasant memory of his eighth-place finish 13 days ago in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs.

Noble Bird was sent off as the 2-1 favorite in the Alysheba, but he hopped in the air at the start of the 1 1/16-mile race and then became rank and fought with Leparoux on the clubhouse turn and up the backstretch before tiring.

"I was really disappointed after the race because I thought we were going to win," Casse said. "He tired and finished second to Eagle in the Ben Ali the race before, but Eagle was at the top of his game, and we were coming off a break. I thought he was really ready for the Alysheba."

Leparoux said he learned in the Alysheba not to fight with Noble Bird and was determined to take a lighter hold in the Special.

"The key today was that I left him alone," Leparoux said. "He fought me the whole way in the Alysheba."

Following the scratches of Stanford and Page McKenney, the two morning-line favorites in the Special, a field of six went to the gate. Noble Bird didn't break sharply and was pinched back, but Leparoux eased him outside of the pacesetting Warrioroftheroses.

Noble Bird took the lead from Warrioroftheroses entering the clubhouse turn, with Leparoux high in the irons, and then ran the field off their feet to win by 11 1/4 lengths. Leparoux stayed busy on Noble Bird to the wire.

"Julien stayed after him because he will pull himself up on the lead, too," Casse said. "He's a very talented horse, he's just a tough horse to ride."

Casse said the key with Noble Bird is getting him into a rhythm.

“He doesn't have to do it on the lead, he just needs to find his stride," Casse said.

Noble Bird paid $3.60 to win. He was timed for the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.18 after setting even splits of 23.53, 47.48, and 1:12.12.

Idolo Porteno finished second, six lengths ahead of Warrioroftheroses.

Casse said he didn't have a next race picked out for Noble Bird.

"The Alysheba was the goal," Casse said. "This race wasn't even on the radar until things didn't go right there. We came back on two weeks’ [rest]."

Page McKenney was scratched from the Special on Friday morning by trainer Mary Eppler after it was discovered that the 6-year-old had a slight filling around a tendon.

Eppler said the injury involved the "periphery of the tendon," and that it appeared to be minor.

"It's not serious, but I was just not comfortable running him," Eppler said.

Eppler said Page McKenney would be given stall rest, and an ultrasound would be done on the tendon in two weeks.

Stanford was declared from the race Thursday by trainer Todd Pletcher and is expected to make his next start in the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day.