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Sunday brought a close to the 2021 Kentucky Downs meet, ending the wacky all-turf 7-day handicapping nightmare (did we say nightmare? We meant joy, utter joy) and signaling that the Churchill Downs fall meet is around the corner.
Before officially turning the page to Louisville, here’s our list of the Three Stars of the Week from the soybean fields of Franklin, where a pair of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events grabbed the headlines:
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The native of Argentina with the dual European breeding in his background ruled over all in Saturday’s Calumet Turf Cup (G2), earning his place in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). It marked the second stakes success of the meet for trainer Paulo Lobo and co-owners Bonne Chance Farm and Stud Rio Dois Irmaos, who also saw In Love win last Wednesday’s TVG Stakes. The same connections upset last year’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland with Ivar, who used that “Win and You’re In” ticket to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Jose Lezcano piloted the Rusty Arnold trainee to become the only horse on the entire 11-race card who sat close to the early pace and won, doing so convincingly in Saturday’s FanDuel Turf Sprint Stakes (G3). The victory earned him a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), though this race’s distance – 6 furlongs over an undulating course – is quite a different setup compared to the 5-furlong flat dash awaiting him at Del Mar. Still, expect Arnold to have him ready to run his best, as he did in this career-topping spot.
Really, this award should go to this horse’s co-owner, Qatar Racing, who with The Lir Jet’s victory Saturday won the Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G2) for the third straight year. The Irish-bred started his career overseas by winning 2 straight, including a major Royal Ascot stakes, but he went winless in his next 8 starts and only managed to hit the board in 3 of those. Still, his debut for American-based trainer Brendan Walsh couldn’t have gone much better than this, with Tyler Gaffalione using a ground-saving trip to score the victory.
Kentucky Downs apparently doesn’t want you to see a replay of his victory; our apologies.
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