12,989 2079 1,927 1,728 $116,237,365 16 % 45 %
2016 - to June 1
898 143 143 130 $10,626,178 17 % 45 %

Noble Bird cruises to triumph in Lukas Classic
Byron King, DRF
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Pushed into hot fractions in the Grade 1 Met Mile and Whitney Handicap, Noble Bird weakened to fifth and sixth, respectively.
Coady Photography
Noble Bird, with Julien Leparoux up, leads the pack en route to victory in the Lukas Classic.

Those retreats were solved Saturday by a class drop. Running in the ungraded $175,000 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs and given the luxury of a clear lead, he reserved his form, lasting for a 1 1/2-length victory over 12-1 outsider Hawaakom.

Aside from a somewhat awkward break, the Lukas Classic could not have gone more favorably for Noble Bird when jockey Corey Lanerie, on 2016 Stephen Foster winner Bradester, conceded the lead to Noble Bird, the 2015 Foster winner.

This allowed the latter to cruise to the lead with fractions of 48:01 and 1:11.74 and, after turning back an early stretch bid from Bradester, he maintained a safe advantage over late-running Hawaakom. A 5-year-old son of Birdstone owned by John Oxley, he raced 1 1/8 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:49.03.

“Today he was happy in front and he kept going,” winning rider Julien Leparoux said.

Bradester, who earned a “Win and You’re In” berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in taking the Stephen Foster in June, faded to third, three quarters of a length behind Hawaakom.

He is no sure thing to contest the Classic. He has been campaigned in short routes over his career, suggesting a race such as the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile could appeal more to his connections.

David Carroll, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse, credited Casse’s crew at Saratoga, led by Norman Casse, for having Noble Bird well prepared for the Lukas Classic.

“He just got down here a couple of days ago,” he said. “He came in great shape and got a great ride from Julien. I just had the pleasure of saddling him.”

Tepin topples males again in Woodbine Mile
Ron Gierknk, DRF
Michael Burns
Tepin, under Julien Leparoux, wins her eighth straight race in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario—The incomparable Tepin beat the boys again in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile, holding off 23-1 shot Tower of Texas under Julien Leparoux to win the 20th running of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifier.

Glenville Gardens set quick fractions of 23.39 and 46.41 seconds, while being stalked by Full Mast and Arod. After breaking from the outside post 8, Tepin ($2.90) took up the chase in fourth on the backstretch. She made a three-wide bid into contention on the turn, hit the front early in the stretch, and then opened up a daylight lead before holding sway to prevail by a half-length, in a time of 1:34.13 over the “good” ground.

Tower of Texas closed from sixth to edge out 3-1 second choice Mutakayyef.  Full Mast finished fourth, and was followed by Arod, Mr. Owen, Glenville Gardens and Passion for Action.

It was the eighth straight win for the Robert Masterson-owned Tepin, who hadn’t raced since her memorable score over males in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot in June.

“We had a good post,” said winning jockey Julien Leparoux. “She broke good, and relaxed. She was traveling well the whole way.  I could do whatever I wanted. I sat on the outside, and just waited to make a kick at the end. She got a bit tired at the end, but we expected that. I think she’s going to get better, fitter, after this race. She had been off for three months. No matter how many times you breeze her, a race is a race. That’s how you get fit. It was a race to help her get ready for the next one.”

Norm Casse, assistant and son of trainer Mark Casse, said Tepin will run back at Keeneland on Oct. 8 in either the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile or the Grade 1 First Lady, whichever one is easier. That will be her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita, which she won last year when it was staged at Keeneland.

“She’ll go to Churchill,” said Norm Casse. “If we waited until the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, we’d have to breeze her over and over on the main track at Churchill, and I don’t know if we’re really 100 percent comfortable with that. It’s better when she runs all the time. She’ll probably come back and have an easy work. We’ll pick out a race at Keeneland, and she’ll be ready to go.”

Victory to Victory gives Casse seventh Natalma Stakes victory
Ron Gierkink, DRF
Michael Burns
Victory to Victory, ridden by Florent Geroux, earns a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf by winning the Natalma by 2 1/2 lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario—Victory to Victory punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with a determined come-from-behind score under Florent Geroux in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday.

A hot pace, set by Will She, materialized in the one-mile turf event. With blinkers added, Victory to Victory ($17.70) raced in sixth on the outside for much of the way, and then made up ground to hit the front around the three-sixteenths pole.

Stormy Perfection closed strongly on the outside from 11th to take dead aim at Victory to Victory in midstretch, but Victory to Victory repelled the bid and went on to prevail by 2 1/2 lengths, in a time of 1:35.24 over the firm ground.

Beat the Benchmark finished third, and Thora Barber was fourth. Red Lodge, the 7-2 favorite, stalked in second before fading to 12th, and 4-1 second choice Enstone trailed the 14-horse field.

Geroux won last year’s Natalma on the future Canadian champion Catch a Glimpse for trainer Mark Casse, and Victory to Victory gave Casse a record seventh win in the event.

“It helps to know when your horse is pretty much push-button,” said Geroux. “She broke very sharply from the gate. From there, I took a nice position, without taking any bumping. She settled very nicely, and turning for home, she gave me a very nice kick. The blinkers helped today. It made the difference. She [ran] spotty in her first two races.”

Assistant trainer Norm Casse said Victory to Victory would likely run back in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Santa Anita, since she earned a paid trip to the race in the Natalma.

“We’ll have to see how she comes out of the race, but I’d have to think that’s what the goal is,” said Casse. “We think she’s a really talented horse. She was well-meant from the very beginning. At Churchill, we thought enough of her to send her to Saratoga. As Florent alluded to, she was spotty early on, and I think the blinkers made a big difference. We knew she was a talented horse, and she’s finally starting to figure things out.”