Protonico edges Noble Bird to take Alysheba Stakes

Louisville, KY ( – Protonico, sent off as the 7-5 favorite,
won a stretch duel versus Noble Bird in winning Friday’s $400,000 Alysheba
Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks program.

Protonico, trained by Todd Pletcher, broke from post 2 with Hall of Fame
jockey John Velazquez and pressed pacesetter Den’s Legacy in the 1 1/16-
mile stakes.

The top horses kept their positions on the front-end up the backstretch and
into the final turn. Honor Code, the 9-5 second choice, was running far off
the pace as the nine-horse field turned for home.

Protonico, owned by Sumaya U.S. Stables, was hooked by 19-1 longshot Noble
Bird down the stretch and the two 4-year-old colts battled to the wire.
Protonico posted a head victory over Noble Bird for his second win of the

“As soon as he passed the horse who was on the lead (Den’s Legacy), now he
waited,” Velazquez said who has three wins in the race. “And now he has the
other horse on the outside (Noble Bird). The other horse passed him. Now he
realized he had a horse next to him, and then he started running back. (Noble
Bird) got a good neck (on Protonico). It was hard to come back, but eventually
he did it.”

Neck ‘n Neck was third followed by Den’s Legacy, Honor Code, Cougar Ridge,
Midnight Cello, Call Me George and Ride On Curlin. Tarpy’s Surprise was a

The time for the Alysheba on a fast track was 1:42.34.

Protonico increased his bankroll by $225,680 to $826,187 with six wins in 11
career starts. The colt’s only other race at Churchill resulted in a second
last November in the Clark Handicap.

The colt was coming off a five-length win in April’s Ben Ali Stakes at
Keeneland after he began the year by being eased in the Donn Handicap at
Gulfstream Park on Feb. 7.

“My only concern was the 22 days between races was too short,” Pletcher noted,
“but we knew he liked this track and since we are thinking about the Stephen
Foster (on June 13), we decided to take a chance.”

Protonico paid $4.80, $3.40 and $2.60. Noble Bird returned $11.60 and $7.20,
and Neck ‘n Neck paid $4.20 to show.