By Bill Finley
Wesley Ward has already won nine races at Royal Ascot and believes he can add several more to his total when the meet begins June 19. Not only is Ward bringing the largest group (10) he has ever sent over there, he is bringing several he expects are capable of winning.
“I am very confident,” he said. “Very, very confident. I usually go over there bringing a couple I think can win. But this year I start with the biggest group I’ve ever had and they are quality horses.”
Ward will bring five older horses and five 2-year-olds. All the 2-year-olds are fillies. He explained that, while he has several talented 2-year-old males, he didn’t want to bring any horses that he thought could be in over their heads.
“You’ve got to have a really good horse in order to go over there and win,” he said. “It’s a long way to go to lose. It’s a lot of expense to go over there and lose and I try to deter the owners if I really don’t think we have a chance. I just want to bring the ones I think we have a really big chance with.”
The following is Ward’s roster of Royal Ascot runners, with his comments on each:
Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy) is a two-time Royal Ascot winner and will be going for a repeat in the June 19 G1 King’s Stand S. with John Velazquez in the irons. She is 0 for 3 since winning last year at Ascot and was second in her prep, the Giant’s Causeway, as the 7-10 favorite. But Ward believes she is doing well as the race approaches.
“She is coming in as well as last year,” he said. “She is older now and may have needed a race. She was a little more keyed up than normal in the Giant’s Causeway this year, a little more keen than normal early in race. She really benefitted from that race because her works since have been as good, if not better, than ever.”
Hemp Hemp Hurray (Artie Schiller) will try to give owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey their first Royal Ascot win in the June 20 G3 Jersey S. Though he’ll be tested for class, the connections have to be happy with his last race, an 11 3/4-length win in the Animal Kingdom S. at Turfway.
“Mr. Ramsey has an insatiable desire to win over there,” Ward said. “It’s one of his bucket list goals. This guy ran a 6 on the Ragozoin sheets in his last race. He really is a serious sprinter. We’re hoping we can get lucky in this race for Mr. Ramsey. We know we are an outsider. We know it’s a competitive field, but we are very hopeful.”
Owned and trained by Ward, Bound For Nowhere (The Factor) is listed at 12-1 to 14-1 in the ante-post betting for the June 23 G1 Diamond Jubilee, but the trainer believes this horse has as good a shot as any horse he will send over there. He is coming off a four-length win the GII Shakertown at Keeneland.
“I am very, very, very excited about this guy,” he said. “I have always held this horse in high regard. I am really thinking I’m bringing the best turf sprinter in the U.S. over there and we’ll see if that’s the case. He came out of his last race so good and ran a big number on the Ragozin sheets. His works since have been eye-openers. He is a beautiful specimen.”
Master Marion (Quality Road), who goes postward in the June 20 Royal Hunt Cup, tried the synthetic surface for the first time in his career last out and was a well-beaten fourth as the favorite on the GIII Hanshin S. at Arlington. Ward believes a return to the grass will help.
“No, I’m not concerned about his last race,” the trainer said. “He had been working at Turfway and working very well, but for whatever reason he didn’t fire on the synthetic at Arlington. I attribute the loss to him not getting a hold of the track.”
The winner of the 2015 Diamond Jubilee, Undrafted (Purim) goes into the June 23 Wokingham S. off a third-place finish in the Elusive Quality S. at Belmont. Can he still get it done at this level at age 8?
“From everything I’ve seen in his training he is doing awesome,” Ward said of the veteran, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. “The one thing you can’t get around is the age factor. At Belmont, he ran against a slow pace and he closed really well. I thought it was a great race. I think he’s going to run big over a course he likes and has won over.”
Chelsea Cloisters (First Samurai), who heads to the June 20 G2 Queen Mary S., was among Ward’s most impressive 2-year-old winners at the Keeneland meet, winning a maiden by eight lengths.
“She’s an extremely talented 2-year-old filly,” he said of the youngster, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. “We had some torrential downpours and Keeneland was gracious enough to let us get works in on the turf and she just cruised over a soft course. That’s always a big factor. I know she likes soft going. I’m excited about her.”
Stillwater Cove (Quality Road) broke her maiden by a only nose at Keeneland, but Ward saw enough good things in that race to put her on the plane to England for the June 22 G3 Albany S. Joel Rosario has the mount.
“I am real excited about her as well,” he said. “She won her first start, but got a bad ride by my favorite rider Julio Garcia. He admitted it himself. He got her out there seven, eight lengths in front and held on by a nostril. She’s a more long-winded filly and I think she’ll eventually want to go two turns. She’s worked really well since that race.”
With Ward sending so many 2-year-old fillies to Royal Ascot, it figured that he’d run one against males so that he could keep his horses apart. He’s chosen Shang Shang Shang (Shanghai Bobby) for that assignment in the June 21 G2 Norfolk S.
“I’m really excited to have her in there,” he said. “She had a big win (by 2 1/2 lengths at Keeneland) and has done everything right since that win. She really took a liking to the firm turf Sunday. It was her best work to date. She might be a little vulnerable if it comes up soft. Her work Sunday at Keeneland was probably the best of all my 2-year-olds. I’m never afraid to run fillies against colts, especially in 2 year-old sprints. I actually think it’s an advantage.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Our Passion (Elusive Quality) has the advantage of having already won over the turf, which she did in a Belmont maiden, when she goes postward in the June 20 Windsor Castle S.
“I got her ready for the grass and she won with authority at Belmont,” Ward said. “We’re looking to get a win for Don Alberto and the easiest spot might be one of the non-graded races like the Windsor Castle.”
Moonlight Romance (Liaison) will give Ken Ramsey another shot at a coveted win at Royal Ascot. After finishing second on the dirt in her debut at Keeneland, she took to the grass and won a maiden race at Belmont by 5 1/2 lengths.
“We’re looking at a couple of different races for her,” Ward said. “The decision will ultimately be Mr. Ramsey’s.”