John C. Oxley’s Noble Bird is slated to make his next start in the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) on “Black Friday,” Nov. 25 after an impressive wire-to-wire record-setting victory in Saturday’s Fayette (GII) at Keeneland.
Noble Bird won the race by 5¾ lengths in 1:47.75, which was 15/100ths of a second faster than Race Day’s time from the 2015 Fayette.
“We came over to Keeneland (Saturday) and the Clark was really the main goal after the (Aug. 6) Whitney,” said Norman Casse, son and assistant to father Mark. “We gave him a little bit of a break after that race and then decided to point him to the Clark and I think we saw what we wanted out of him with his win.”
The son of Birdstone’s Fayette win, which pushed him over the million-dollar earnings mark to $1,064,945, was his second straight victory after winning the Lukas Classic on Oct. 1 in similar front-running fashion. It also gave him the third stakes victory of his 5-year-old campaign, the first of which came in the May 20 Pimlico Special (GIII).
“I think that (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) is getting to know him a little bit better,” Casse said. “We’re really starting to figure him out what makes him tick a little bit more and he’s a horse that’s really coming into form right when we want him to.”
COURT RETURNS TO THE SADDLE FOLLOWING INJURY – Following a rib and vertebrae injury suffered on opening day of the September Meet, veteran rider Jon Court returns to riding action Sunday on opening day of the Fall Meet and is ready to get back doing what he loves the most.
“I feel good enough to start so I’m here with confidence,” Court, 55, said. “Actually I could have started a couple of days ago but we agreed to just start at Churchill. I was eager to get back since I missed two meets. I missed the Churchill September Meet and Keeneland all together and here we are for the fall in November so I’d like to get those five wins and get win number 4,000.
“The doctors were willing to release me but after talking with my agent (Steve Krajcir) and with the horses we had going in my favor, I had them send the release for (Sunday) to start riding in the afternoon. I was trying to do stuff with my legs but my upper body; I just couldn’t do much with. I just had to take things day by day.”
At age 55, Court has proven himself to still be able to compete at a high level despite being a bit older than most of his fellow riders.
“For some people it’s difficult, but I was very fortunate that I am starting back early with strong supervision from the doctors,” Court said. “As soon as I’m done riding (Sunday) the doctors want to see me (Monday) and evaluate me. They were very thorough about my evaluation and they felt confident enough and I was anxious to get back if I was good to go. There are some people who do struggle at my age, not saying that I don’t struggle at all but at the same time I’m very fortunate to be as fit and healthy as I am.”
So how did Court spend some of his off time?
“A lot of people thought I had free time on my hands but the days went by quickly with physical therapy and doctor’s appointments,” Court said. “I started taking daily deeds around the house and responsibilities that I took up which I normally don’t and getting myself more involved with stuff around the house. I also did get to read a lot of good books on my down time, but other than that I’ve just embraced my family with the time I had on my hands.”
DOWN THE STRETCH- The field for Saturday’s $200,000 Chilukki (GII) is beginning to take shape. Probables for the one mile event for fillies and mares, according to Churchill Downs stakes coordinator Dan Bork: Athena, Birdatthewire, Engaginglee, Kathballu, Kiss to Remember, Sweetgrass and Unbridledexplosion. …Mark Casse’s pair of 2-year-old fillies Gale Force and Dream Dancing breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 Sunday at Churchill Downs, and are targeting the $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) on Nov. 26.