Eye of Heaven, The Lir Jet and Golden Pal Lead Friday's Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot for Free Berth into Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
Photo of Wesley Ward courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND (June 17, 2020) -– Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Eye of Heaven (GB), Qatar Racing Ltd.’s The Lir Jet (IRE), and the Wesley Ward- trained Golden Pal lead 14 entered for Friday’s (June 19) 5-furlong, US$62,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds (G2) at Royal Ascot. A victory in the Norfolk will give the winner an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of stakes races, whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which is scheduled to be held at Keeneland Race Course, in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov 6-7.
As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of the Norfolk to start in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, an open race for 2-year-olds, which will be run at 5 ½ furlongs over the Keeneland turf course on Nov. 6 as a part of the “Future Stars Friday” program. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a travel allowance of US$40,000 for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must already be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program or it must be nominated by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of Oct. 26 to receive the rewards.
The Norfolk Stakes is the third of four Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races to be conducted during the Royal Ascot meeting. The race will be televised live on NBCSN and TVG on Friday at approximately 9:25 a.m. ET in the U.S.
Eye of Heaven, a bay son of Exceed and Excel (AUS), has attracted early wagering interest among the contenders. Trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Frankie Dettori, Eye of Heaven broke his maiden in the EBF Betway Stallions Novice Stakes at 5-furlongs on June 4 at Newmarket as the even-money favorite. He passed Get It (GB) with one furlong remaining and went on to register victory by three-quarters of a length.
The Lir Jet (IRE), trained by Michael Bell, made an even bigger splash in his debut, breaking the all-aged 5-furlong track record at Yarmouth in his June 3 debut. The colt, from the first crop of 2016 Norfolk Stakes winner Prince Of Lir (IRE), was subsequently bought privately by Qatar Racing.
“The track record was a surprise but it wasn’t a surprise that he won because he had been showing up well at home,” Bell said last week. “The conditions were very favorable that day, quickish ground and the wind was helping.
“To break an all-aged track record on debut, carrying 9st 2lb (128 pounds), is not easily done. It was an eye-catching performance which caught the attention of Sheikh Fahad [al Thani of Qatar Racing] and hopefully he will be rewarded.”
Ward describes the Royal Ascot meeting as “The Breeders’ Cup in June.” A 10-time Royal Ascot-winning trainer, Ward could be formidable in the Norfolk with Ranlo Investments LLC’s Golden Pal. Bred in Florida by Randall E. Lowe, Golden Pal is a bay son of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, out of Lady Shipman by 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman. Golden Pal is the first foal from Lady Shipman, an 11-time stakes winner.
In his lone start, Golden Pal finished second in a 4 ½-furlong maiden race on dirt at Gulfstream Park on April 17. After being bumped out of the gate, Golden Pal rushed to the lead and gave way grudgingly to finish three-quarters of a length behind Gatsby. Golden Pal will be ridden by Andrea Atzeni.
Ward has won the Norfolk Stakes twice, with No Nay Never in 2013 -- who still holds the 2-year-old track record -- and the filly Shang Shang Shang in 2018.
Aidan O’Brien, who has trained three Norfolk Stakes winners with Johannesburg (IRE), who also captured the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Waterloo Bridge (IRE) and Sioux Nation, sends out Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier’s Lipizzaner. Bred in Kentucky by Irish Lights Syndicate, Lipizzaner, a bay son of Uncle Mo out of Irish Lights (AUS) by Fastnet Rock (AUS), has finished second as the favorite in both his starts at Naas. He was defeated by a half-length to Poetic Flare (IRE) in an EBF Maiden on March 23 at Naas, and was headed at the wire by Lucky Vega (IRE) in a 6-furlong maiden on June 8. Ryan Moore has the mount.
Also of interest is M A R Blencowe’s Imperial Force (IRE), trained by Andrew Balding. A bay son of Camacho (GB), Imperial Force was beaten by 1 1/4 lengths in his debut in a 6-furlong EFB maiden at Newmarket on June 4.
The Norfolk Stakes is the third of four Breeders’ Cup Challenge races to be run during the Royal Meeting. On Tuesday, Circus Maximus (IRE), earned a “Win and You’re In” berth into the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) by winning the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) On Wednesday, Lord North (IRE) won the for an automatic starting position into the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) by taking the Prince of Wales’s Stakes. On Saturday, an automatic berth in to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be on the line in the 6-furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1).
ABOUT BREEDERS’ CUP
The Breeders’ Cup administers the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Thoroughbred horse racing’s year-end Championships, as well as the Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying series, which provides automatic starting positions into the Championships races. The Breeders’ Cup is also a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, an organization composed of industry leaders committed to advancing safety measures in Thoroughbred racing and improving the well-being of equine and human athletes.
The 2020 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, consisting of 14 Championship races, is scheduled to be held on November 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky and features a total of $35 million in purses and awards. The event will be televised live by the NBC Sports Group. Breeders’ Cup press releases appear on the Breeders’ Cup website, breederscup.com. You can also follow the Breeders’ Cup on social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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