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6 Jul 2020

Trainer Michael Bell Aiming for His First Nunthorpe Victory in Almost a Decade

Although Battaash's proposed participation in August's Nunthorpe Stakes is likely to dominate the headlines, Michael Bell is hoping to spring a surprise with the unbeaten The Lir Jet. The Newmarket trainer does have history in the Group 1 event having saddled Margot Did back in 2011, and he will be hoping that the Qatar Racing-owned colt can end his almost decade-long drought in this sprint event. Two-year-old competitors don't tend to fare well in this 5f contest, and with plenty of experienced rivals set to line-up on the Knavesmire once again this summer, it's shaping up to be a suitably competitive renewal. Since the aforementioned Margot Did triumphed nine years ago, three of the subsequent winners have been aged seven, whilst Michael Dod's Mecca's Angel was a four-year-old when clinching the first of two consecutive victories in the event. Despite his lack of maturity, The Lir Jet will certainly attract plenty of interest pre-race and at 10/1 in the latest ante-post horse racing betting, he is expected to go close at the end of August. 

He was last seen triumphing in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, seeing off the challenge of US raider Golden Pal. Wesley Ward's charge blazed a trail, but despite appearing to have done enough with a furlong left to race, The Lir Jet and Oisin Murphy had other ideas. It was a fifth success at the royal meeting for the trainer, and with the race having been added to the Breeder's Cup "Win and You're In" series in 2018, the 59-year old may view the Nunthorpe as the perfect preparation for a trip to Keeneland at the beginning of November. 

Prior to his all-conquering display in Berkshire, the speedy two-year-old had caught the eye in East Anglia, breaking the Yarmouth track record with a time of 59 seconds. The newcomer won by almost three lengths and showed a tremendous amount of early speed to leave his nine rivals competing for the minor honours. His sire, Prince of Lir also enjoyed a winning start and was successful in the Norfolk Stakes. However, that proved to be his final career victory, with his subsequent three outings proving to be hugely underwhelming affairs. Unlike Robert Cowell's charge, The Lir Jet is expected to follow up his wonderful performance at Royal Ascot, and a trip to York could provide him with the ideal opportunity to secure a memorable hat-trick.  He will face stiff competition from Battaash, who dominated in the King's Stand Stakes in mid-June. He romped home in last year's Nunthorpe and is likely to take some stopping in 2020. Charles Hills' stable star is versatile ground-wise and is likely to go off at an odds-on price for this year's event. However, as his disappointing performance in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp proved, he is fallible, and The Lir Jet could be the one to take advantage this time around.  The experienced handler has enjoyed success in a number of top-class events during his distinguished career with notable winners in the Goodwood Cup, the Irish Oaks and the Golden Jubilee, yet it's been almost ten years since he last tasted victory in the Nunthorpe. The Lir Jet is a progressive type and is already shaping up to be one of the UK's classiest sprinters, and he could help Michael Bell to get back to winning ways at the Ebor Festival later this summer.