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2023 Franklin-Simpson Stakes Preview | Ward Sends Playlist Against Boys At Kentucky Downs
Kentucky Downs racing (Coady Photography)

2023 Franklin-Simpson Stakes Preview | Ward Sends Playlist Against Boys At Kentucky Downs

Trainer Wesley Ward will try to beat the boys when he runs the filly Playlist in the seventh running of the Grade 2, $1 million Exacta Systems Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Kentucky Downs.

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Playlist has won three of four starts this year for owners Westerberg Limited, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael B. Tabor. The daughter of Uncle Mo is on a three-race winning streak and will be making her stakes debut with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the saddle.

Ward won the inaugural running of the Franklin-Simpson with Master Merion in 2017.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen watched Mike McCaty’s Private Creed win the $500,000 Juvenile Sprint at Kentucky Downs last year. He is hoping the son of Jimmy Creed can add another trophy from the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

Private Creed won the Juvenile Sprint at 6 ½-furlongs, the same distance as the Franklin-Simpson. He is winless this year in five starts but is coming off a rallying second-place finish in the Mahony at 5 1/2-furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 13. Private Creed, who has won three of seven career starts on firm turf, will be ridden by Joel Rosario.

Private Creed went off at 11-1 odds in the Mahony and his upset bid was thwarted by another longshot in Closethegame Sugar, who is co-owned (along with Edwin Diaz) and trained by Adam Rice. This lightly raced son of Girvin has won two of three career starts and was second in the other try. Jose Lezcano gets the call to ride.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., fresh off his fifth riding title at Saratoga, will ride the Rusty Arnold-trained Sweet Cherry Pie for the first time for owner BBN Racing. The son of Twirling Candy will be making his grass debut after two wins in five starts on dirt.

BBN Racing will also be represented by Mo Stash for trainer Vicki Oliver. The early speed horse finished sixth in her last try, the Grade 2 Secretariat at Colonial on Aug. 12. The son of Mo Town gets Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will be looking for a better effort from Starlight Racing and Harrell Ventures’ Bat Flip in this spot. When last seen, the son of Good Magic finished eighth of nine in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga, which was run over good turf.

That was his first start since November. On firm ground, he has won two of three. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will ride.

Defending riding champion Tyler Gaffalione will be the pilot of Talla Racing, Rockingham Ranch and David A. Bernsen’s Behind Enemy Lines for trainer Jack Sisterson. The son of Sioux Nation was last seen finishing fifth in the Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga.

Also entered are C&H Diamond Racing’s Frosted Departure for trainer Kenny McPeek and jockey Brian Hernandez; St. George Stable’s Mounsieur Coco for Fausto Gutierrez and Martin Chaun; BG Stables’ Lugan Knight for Michael McCarthy and Florent Geroux; Barry and Joni Butzow’s Golden Bandit for Coty Rose and Adam Beschizza and K&R Racing Stable and Town Branch Racing’s Two of a Kind for Brian Lynch and Declan Cannon.

Here’s the full field:

1 Frosted Departure (118) Kenny McPeek/Brian Hernandez

2 Private Creed (122) Steve Asmussen/Joel Rosario

3 Monsieur Coco (118) Fausto Gutierrez/Martin Chuan

4 Bat Flip (122) Todd Pletcher/tBD

5 Lugan Knight (118) Michael McCarthy/Florent Geroux

6 (f) (s) Playlist (117) Wesley Ward/John Velazquez

7 Sweet Cherry Pie (118) Rusty Arnold/Irad Ortiz

8 Mo Stash (124) Vicki Oliver/Rafael Bejarano

9 Golden Bandit (122) Coty Rosin/Adam Beschizza

10 Two of a Kind (118) Brian Lynch/Declan Cannon

11 Closethegame Sugar (122) Adam Rice/Jose Lezcano

12 Behind Enemy Lines (122) Jack Sisterson/Tyler Gaffalione

13 AE: Bal A Kazoo (120) Robert Gorham/Eduardo Perez

14 AE: Mischievous Angel (118) Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz

15 AE: Determinedly (118) Mark Casse/Tyler Gaffalione

16 AE: Son of a Birch (118) Tom Morley/Javier Castellano

f — filly; s— supplemental entry