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LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 29, 2016) – John C. Oxley’s heavily favored Noble Bird lowered a track record when he scored a front-running victory in the $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2) on Saturday, closing day of Keeneland’s 17-day Fall Meet. The crowd of 19,093 on the sunny 80-degree afternoon pushed the season’s total attendance to a Fall Meet record 276,543.
Noble Bird, a 5-year-old son of Birdstone, won the 1 1/8-mile race on a fast track by 5¾ lengths in 1:47.75, which was 15/100ths of a second faster than Race Day’s time from the 2015 Hagyard Fayette. The victory marked Oxley’s fifth win of the Fall Meet, including his third stakes victory following the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) on Oct. 8 with Classic Empire and the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) on Oct. 12 with La Coronal. Those two horses were pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 4-5 at Santa Anita.
Noble Bird is trained by Mark Casse, who was the Fall Meet’s leading trainer with 13 wins, and was ridden by Julien Leparoux, the season’s leading jockey with 21 victories. Casse trains Oxley’s two earlier Fall Meet stakes winners; Leparoux also rode Classic Empire.
In the Hagyard Fayette, Noble Bird along the rail took early command of the race and led the field through fractions of :23.53, :46.70, 1:10.53 and a mile in 1:35.12. Second choice Divining Rod, winner of Keeneland’s Coolmore Lexington (G3) in 2015, took aim on the leader as the field rounded the final turn but to no avail as Noble Bird pulled away in the stretch.
Noble Bird earned $120,000 for the victory to push his career earnings to $1,064,945. He has won seven races in 19 starts.
At even money, Noble Bird paid $4, $2.80 and $2.40. Divining Rod, ridden by Florent Geroux returned $4.20 and $3.20. Hawaakom rallied from last to be third, another 5¾ lengths back under Miguel Mena, and paid $4.40.
Mr. Z was fourth and was followed in order by Prayer for Relief, Iron Fist, Chocopologie and Kasaqui (ARG).