10/29/2016 6:50PM

Noble Bird rolls to front-running Fayette victory

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Julien Leparoux guides Noble Bird to a 5 3/4-length victory in the Fayette.

LEXINGTON, Ky. –  Give Noble Bird his way, and he runs away from his rivals. That was abundantly clear in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland when Noble  Bird controlled the pace and dominated in track-record time on the fall  meet’s closing day.

Allowed to run freely under Julien Leparoux , who notched 11th riding title this fall at Keeneland, Noble Bird sprang to the lead while setting a quick pace, and maintained a commanding advantage throughout in beating Divining Rod by 5 3/4 lengths. He completed 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.75, lowering Race Day’s mark of 1:47.90 that was established last fall.

His Fayette performance was reminiscent of his victory in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special in May, a race which he also controlled from start to finish.

“When this horse is on ‘A’ game and everything goes good for him he’s a very good horse for sure,” Leparoux said.

Noble Bird gave trainer Mark Casse his fourth stakes win of the fall meet, placing him in a tie with Ben Jones, D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher, and Graham Motion for the most stakes wins by a trainer during a meet at Keeneland. Casse also won the fall training title, his third at the track.

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A 5-year-old son of Birdstone, Noble Bird ($4) became a millionaire with the $120,000 winner’s share of the Fayette purse.  His earnings stand at $1,064,945 for owner John Oxley.

2015 Lexington winner Divining Rod – who stalked Noble Bird in third early as the pacesetter carved out splits of 23.53 seconds, 46.70, and 1:10.53 – launched a bid after the leader coming into the stretch but couldn’t sustain it late. He finished 4 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Hawaakom.

The next intended start for Noble Bird is the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs, where he recorded a  Grade 1 victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June 2015.

“I think we’re figuring him out a little bit,” said assistant Norm Casse, Mark’s son. “ I think he’s a horse that if there is a lot of speed in the race he’s a little bit more compromised. We got to pick out races where he can dictate things on his own end. And that’s what we did today.”

Attendance Saturday was 19,093 in sunny, unseasonably-warm fall weather.