Ward’s Nine-Pronged Attack
19 Jun 2017
American trainer Wesley Ward is bringing an unprecedented nine horses to Royal Ascot this week …
The confidence that radiated from Wesley Ward here last Wednesday morning was a match for the sun, beating down from a clear blue sky. Ward, who has sent seven winners to Royal Ascot from his base in America over the past eight seasons, watched nine of his entries for this week’s meeting exercise over four and a half furlongs, and said later that “100%” his team for this year’s Royal meeting is the strongest yet.
“I’m excited,” Ward said. “The weather is always a question and by the forecast it looks that there shouldn’t be any worries. You never know of course, but going into these races I’m more confident than I’ve ever been coming over here.”
Ward’s strike rate at the Royal meeting since Strike The Tiger took the 2009 Windsor Castle Stakes at 33-1 is 18.9%, a figure that even Aidan O’Brien, the top trainer at the meeting four times in the past six years, cannot match.
“There was a bit of miscommunication there [with Bound For Nowhere]. The boy riding him, his mentor is Julio Garcia, who rode Bound For Nowhere on both starts, he warned him that there’s no money in the morning and that he should just sit there.
“He told me that when Ryan asked and she sprinted away, he just pulled a little harder because he didn’t want to take anything out of the horse. If I had a watch on me, I’d guarantee he had a really fast, blitzing work. Ryan let Lady Aurelia go and this is her place, it’s where she shines and she just kicked on, but they all worked good and everything looks great.”
McErin, the ante-post favourite for the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes, and Arawak, a contender for the Coventry Stakes over six furlongs, worked together under Moore and Jamie Spencer respectively, and there was little between them at the line. It took Spencer an age to pull up Arawak, however, and the colt is clearly in rude health.
“He had a beautiful work,” Ward said. “He’s a very stout colt and it was the best work I’ve ever seen him do today, it shows that he really likes the course. He worked good last week at Keeneland but nothing like today. Once you get over here, certain horses head up and certain horses head down, and that guy really stepped it up today.”
Ward felt before Wednesday’s workouts that Princess Peggy, who is entered in the Albany Stakes, could be the weak link in his squad, but he was more optimistic after seeing her work with Happy Like A Fool, who runs in the Queen Mary.
“I said to Ryan, there’s just a little bit of a question mark for me whether she’s going to be good enough in the Albany, but she worked fantastic and he said, “I wouldn’t shy away from anything”. He said that she loved the firm ground and that the further we go, the better she is. He was all smiles, and that’s a big bonus.”
Frankie Dettori, who will partner most of Ward’s runners next week, was due at Ascot on Wednesday morning but missed the workouts after suffering a bruised shoulder when he was unseated in the paddock at Yarmouth on Tuesday.
Dettori said on Wednesday that he expects to return to action on Saturday, and Ward sees him as a vital part of the team. “There’s no one better than Frankie,” Ward said. “Taking nothing away from the boys that were over here helping me this morning, but Frankie and I, we go back a ways now. Frankie will ride nearly all of them except for Arawak. John Velasquez, who won on him at Belmont [in May] is coming over to ride him.”Fairyland, who was not with the team sent to Ascot on Wednesday, is expected to line up alongside Princess Peggy in the Albany Stakes, while Nootka Sound and Elizabeth Bennet will go for the Windsor Castle Stakes.
The challenge from the US at this year’s Royal meeting is expected to be stronger than ever, with American Patriot, from the stable of leading trainer Todd Pletcher, expected to run in the opening race of the meeting, the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. The French-trained squad for the week, however, suffered another setback on Wednesday when Cloth Of Stars, a leading contender for Wednesday’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, joined his compatriot Vazirabad, who was ruled out of the Gold Cup on Tuesday, on the sidelines.
There was an unexpected absentee from the King’s Stand Stakes when the five-day declarations were released on Wednesday, as Acapulco, who was a Royal winner for Ward in the 2015 Queen Mary Stakes, was taken out of the race by her current trainer, Aidan O’Brien.