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FRANKLIN, KY – For the third straight year, owner Qatar Racing visited the winner’s circle of the $600,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G2) at Kentucky Downs when The Lir Jet surged up the rail to win Saturday’s running of the 6 1/2-furlong firm turf sprint.
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Co-owned with RacehorseClub and debuting for new trainer Brendan Walsh, The Lir Jet broke from post 2 under Tyler Gaffalione at 8/1 odds and settled into a mid-pack ground-saving position.
Into the Sunrise burst to the lead from the rail draw and was soon joined by Bodenheimer before posting opening fractions of :22.18 and :45.46 for the opening 1/4- and 1/2-mile.
While County Final split the front-runners off the far turn and made a run for the lead, The Lir Jet found an opening inside Into the Sunrise and scooted through to take command inside the final furlong.
Longshots Easy Time and Fauci made late runs that came up short as The Lir Jet crossed 1 3/4 lengths victorious in a final time of 1:15.38.
“He broke sharp, grabbed ahold of the bit running up the hill,” Gaffalione said. “Even going down the hill, he grabbed it a little more. I had to wait a little bit longer. He was taking me the whole way. As soon as a spot opened up, he accelerated and finished the job.”
A five-horse photo for second went to Easy Time over Fauci, Into the Sunrise, Miss Amulet (the field’s lone female), and County Final.
Point Me By (the 2/1 favorite), Annex, Bodenheimer, Omaha City, and Next completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 3-year-olds.
Tango Tango Tango, King of Miami, Momos (Also Eligible), and Bob’s Edge (Also Eligible) scratched.
The Lir Jet’s win was his first since he began his career 2 for 2 including winning the Norfolk Stakes (G2) at the 2020 Royal Ascot meet and ended an oh-fer streak of 8 starts and included finishing seventh in his prior stateside appearance, last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Previously with Michael Bell while racing overseas, the Irish-bred Prince of Lir gelding improved his record to 11-3-2-1 with $313,882 earned.
“From the first year we won, I told (racing manager Fergus Galvin) that we wanted to go again,” said Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, chairman of Qatar Racing. “And this year we figured out that this horse was ideal for this race. And to be honest, credit is due to Michael Bell, who trained the horse in England. I had a chat with him, and he said to me that he thought this horse would suit racing in America, and would suit Kentucky Downs. He said, ‘Take him to America and send him to one of your trainers over there.’
“Brendan has been very lucky for us. He’s a very good trainer, Brendan, and deserves all the luck he’s been getting. That’s why we chose him. Also Fergus Galvin, our racing manager over here, thought that this race was ideal for him. And to be honest, Tyler (Gafflione) gave him an unbelievable ride.
The Lir Jet returned $19.60 to win, $9.80 to place, and $7.20 to show. Easy Time brought back $23 to place and $12 to show. Fauci paid $8 to show.
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