Noble Bird wins Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Long shot Noble Bird overtook Paganol in the far turn and held off favorite Lea by a neck to win the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday night.

The winner earned an automatic berth in the Oct. 31 Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington.

The 10-1 choice entering the Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds and up was running second to Paganol in the backstretch before surging past him in the far turn as Lea made a move when the seven-horse field approached the stretch. Lea appeared to have Noble Bird reeled in during the final furlong but couldn't catch the chestnut colt, who won for the third time in four starts this year. The other finish was a second in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill on May 1.

''He ran a really big race in that (Alysheba), and he's just gotten better from there and rewarded our confidence,'' assistant trainer Mark Casse said.

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Noble Bird covered 1 1/8 mile in 1:47.94 and paid $11.40, $5 and $3.20.

His four career wins in nine starts have all come in six races dating back to August, and Bridgmohan believes the horse has an even stronger upside.

''He had been training well and obviously showed it tonight,'' the jockey said. ''He's been working like this in the morning, so this performance was expected. ... He's been maturing and I think he's going to be a horse to watch for.''

Lea returned $3.40 and $2.40, while Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity battled back from a rough start to pay $3 for third.

Frivolous went from 20-1 long shot to Breeders' Cup Distaff qualifier by winning the $200,000 Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap that preceded the Foster Handicap. Starting from the No. 6 post position, the mare ran near the front and took charge down the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Sheer Drama, with Tiz Windy third.

With Jon Court aboard, Frivolous paid $66.20, $24.00 and $10.40.

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