05/21/2016 10:37AM

Noble Bird eyes Met Mile or Stephen Foster Handicap

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

BALTIMORE – Noble Bird, the runaway winner of the $300,000 Pimlico Special on Friday, came out of his 11 1/4-length victory in good shape, Norm Casse said Saturday morning.

"I'm more tired than he is," Casse said. "He came out of the race fine and ate up well."

The victory redeemed Noble Bird for his eighth-place finish as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Noble Bird hopped in the air at the start of the Alysheba to get away behind the field and then was rank when jockey Julien Leparoux tried to rate him.

On Friday, Noble Bird didn't break sharply and was pinched back at the start, but Leparoux deftly guided him to the outside and took a light hold while staying high up in the saddle. Noble Bird took the lead outside of Warrioroftheroses on the first turn of the 1 3/16-mile Special and then ran his five rivals off their feet.

"We decided you just have to let this horse run and do what he wants," Casse, the assistant trainer to his father, Mark, said. "We also took everything off his face. No tongue tie, no nose band."

Norm Casse said the most likely next race for Noble Bird is either the $1.25 million Met Mile on June 11, Belmont Stakes Day, or the Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 18.

Noble Bird, a 4-year-old son of Birdstone owned by John Oxley, scored his first stakes win by a neck in the Foster last June. He finished second by a head in the Alysheba prior to that victory.

Noble Bird is now 5 for 15, with earnings of $755,785. He seems poised for a big season in a seemingly depleted handicap division now that the Casses have determined how he wants to be ridden.

After the Pimlico Special, Mark Casse said, "He's a very talented horse, he’s just tough to ride. Early in his career, he gave Stewart Elliott and Victor Espinoza problems, too."