The Lir Jet Catches Golden Pal to Win Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and Secures Automatic Berth into Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint
Photo of The Lir Jet (IRE), with Oisin Murphy up, winning the Norfolk Stakes, is courtesy of Racenews.
ASCOT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND (June 19, 2020) -– Qatar Racing Limited’s 2-year-old The Lir Jet (IRE) deprived trainer Wesley Ward a third success in the US$62,000 Norfolk Stakes (G2) when getting up in the last strides over Golden Pal to claim the 5-furlong sprint and clinch a guaranteed position in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge 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 Lir Jet to start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which will be run at 5 ½ furlongs over the Keeneland turf course. 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.
With the British Flat season having been suspended until the beginning of this month, due to coronavirus, there have been limited opportunities for juveniles this year.
The Michael Bell-trained The Lir Jet, a son of 2016 Norfolk Stakes winner Prince Of Lir (IRE), had made an instant impression in a winning debut at Yarmouth on June 3 when smashing the all-aged track record.
He subsequently changed hands when Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, Qatar Racing principle, bought the colt from Nick Bell, the trainer’s son and assistant, who had secured him from Robson Aguiar, who originally paid approximately US$9,800 for him as a yearling.
The ground conditions, which had been good to firm at Yarmouth, were very different this time on a track rated good to soft.
Ward had feared that Florida-bred Golden Pal may be compromised on the surface. Nevertheless he made a bold bid from the front, blazing a trail for almost the entire trip before having to give way to the stronger The Lir Jet at the finish. The Lir Jet eventually prevailed by a neck over the American runner, with Imperial Force (IRE) 3 lengths back in third.
The Lir Jet (9-2), who completed the 5 furlongs in 1:01.55, provided jockey Oisin Murphy with his first Royal Ascot victory in the colors of Qatar Racing, to whom he is first jockey.
“I wasn’t confident a furlong down,” Murphy said. “I thought Andrea [Atzeni on Golden Pal] rode a clever race in front. He never gunned his horse and he was all the time increasing his lead. I didn’t jump super well. My horse traveled lovely, picked up all the way to the line and galloped through the line. He was the last to pull up.
“Imagine it’s my first Qatar Racing winner at Royal Ascot so it’s a huge relief.”
Bell said: “When he won at Yarmouth, he broke the track record but he didn’t learn a lot because he won so easily, so today he really had to dig in and learn how to race. It’s so good when you see a horse with that kind of attitude and it bodes very well for the future.
“He is all speed, by a sprinter out of a Green Desert mare. He would get 6 furlongs, but I wouldn’t be thinking he is going to get further. Prince Of Lir won the Norfolk on soft (ground) so we were quite hopeful with the ground. He is one of those lucky horses that goes on anything.”
He continued: “Nick must take huge credit. He is my assistant. We were trying to find a horse and Robson Aguiar was going to consign him but the breeze-ups were canceled and Nick acquired him. Then Sheikh Fahad was watching Yarmouth on telly and sent me a text asking if he was for sale, and the rest is history. It was a good bit of business for everyone involved.”
Bell indicated that The Lir Jet will step up to the top level for his next start. “My gut feeling is that if The Lir Jet runs in another G2, he'll be carrying a penalty, so I'd be inclined to point him at something like the Prix Morny (G1), but I think we should talk to Sheikh Fahad and David Redvers, and we will come up with a plan.
"The Nunthorpe would be another option, but the balls will go in the air. When you start winning Group races with 2-year-olds there is stallion potential, so there are all sorts of things that need to be considered. But if Battaash (IRE) was to go for the Nunthorpe, I would probably say he should be avoided.”
Ward, always up for challenge, indicated he would be prepared to take on Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes winner Battaash with Golden Pal at York in August.
Adrian Beaumont, of the International Racing Bureau, later revealed that Ward had spoken to him about running Golden Pal against his elders in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (G1) under Irad Ortiz.
Ward took the same route with another juvenile Acapulco, who carried 122 pounds when finishing second in the 2015 Nunthorpe under Ortiz, after winning the Queen Mary Stakes (G2).
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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