Casse workers ready for upcoming stakes
Edited Press Release
Trainer Mark Casse sent out Grade 1 hero Noble Bird to breeze a half-mile in :48 over Churchill Downs’ fast main track Friday with jockey Julien Leparoux up.
It was the first move back for the five-year-old chestnut since taking the May 20 Pimlico Special H. (G3) on the eve of the Preakness S. (G1).
Noble Bird’s first quarter-mile was timed in :23.80 and he galloped out in 1:01.
The John Oxley-owned son of Birdstone is more likely to take part in the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) going a mile on the June 11 Belmont S. (G1) undercard than defend his title in the $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G1) at nine furlongs under the Twin Spires on June 18, according to Casse.
“I would say we’re leaning toward the Met Mile,” Casse said. “He’s already won the Stephen Foster and it’d be really neat to win the Met Mile with him.
“It was a pretty important work for him today and we’re trying to gauge whether to run in the Met Mile or Stephen Foster so I was really watching him pretty intently since he just ran. Everything is indicating that he’s doing well if not better than before the Pimlico Special.”
Should he opt to race in the Met Mile, Noble Bird would be shortening up from the Pimlico Special’s distance of 1 3/16 miles.
“We think it would suit him better because he’s kind of a free-running horse,” Casse explained. “We’ve decided that we’re not going to try and rate him anymore. When you cut him back to a mile, he’ll be with horses that he can’t keep up with so he’ll get to run his style race even though he’ll be coming from out of it a little bit and we actually think that will suit him better.”
Half-brothers World Approval and Za Approval, both homebreds owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, also put in works for Casse on Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
A game second to Divisidero in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) last out, World Approval went a half-mile in :49.40 in preparation for the $1 million Manhattan (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day.
“He’s done extremely well since he last ran in the Woodford Reserve,” Casse said. “He’s come back with two brilliant, sensational works since the race. The mile-and-a-quarter distance at Belmont is the big question mark but I think it’s a question mark for everybody. All I know is the horse is doing really well and will run a big race.”
A well-beaten eighth in the Dixie (G2) at Pimlico last time out, eight-year-old veteran Za Approval, who finished second behind two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), is possible to target his former opponent’s namesake, the $200,000 Wise Dan (G2) going 1 1/16 grassy miles at Churchill Downs, on June 18.
Za Approval clocked a bullet half-mile in :46.20 in company with fellow Casse trainee and Wise Dan hopeful Conquest Typhoon, who posted four furlongs in :49.40. The latter also ran in the Dixie most recently, filling the fifth spot on the wire while beaten 2 1/2 lengths.
“Za worked real well,” Casse said. “We were disappointed in his last effort. He didn’t really like the yielding turf course, so we may be pointing to the Wise Dan.
“Conquest Typhoon worked with World Approval and he’ll go to the Wise Dan for sure.”
Noble Bird (inside) narrowly beat Lea in last year’s Stephen Foster (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)