Staring with Strike the Tiger’s victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes in 2009, US-based trainer Wesley Ward has won 12 races at Royal Ascot.
This year, he brings only five horses to the meeting, but four of them have very live chances in their respective races, with top US jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. riding all five of Ward’s horses.
Ward’s five runners include King’s Stand contender Golden Pal – a winner at the Breeders’ Cup last year and two-time Royal Ascot winner Campanelle, who took the Queen Mary Stakes and the Commonwealth Cup in back-to-back seasons.
The American trainer spoke to Sky Sports Racing earlier this week about his chances for another Royal winner at the Berkshire venue.
(King’s Stand Stakes)
Runner-up, beaten a neck by The Lir Jet in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes in 2020, this four-year-old colt returns to Ascot for the Group 1 King’s Stand on Stakes on Tuesday.
Golden Pal won last November’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar then came off a five-month layoff to win the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes by four and three-quarter lengths at Keeneland.
“What was impressive about that was he never left Kentucky, he had to deal with (winter) weather, what have you,” Ward said.
“For him to duck around when to work, when not to work, missing days, cold weather in Kentucky and for him to come off the bench like he did and as powerful as he did was very impressive.
“He should be that much more forward because he’s had all his works, he’s in great shape, he’s come out of his race in great order.”
Golden Pal, a Florida-bred son of Uncle Mo, has used his speed to win six of his last seven starts.
“Usually, you go fast early and pay for it late, he’s one that can go fast early and can sustain,” Ward said. “Very few horses can do that.”
(Queen Mary Stakes)
An Irish-bred daughter of U S Navy Flag, Love Reigns rolled to a nine and three quarter length victory in a five and a half furlong maiden turf race at Keeneland at the end of April.
“She ran a big race there, I don’t know what will materialise out of that race, but she ran a fast time,” Ward said.
Of six horses to run again from that maiden, only one has been victorious. Love Reigns dominated that 12-horse field despite breaking slowly from an inside draw.
“I didn’t do a lot out of gate with her, I was thinking five and half is a long way for a two-year-old in April,” Ward said.
“I was hoping Irad kind of took his time when he broke a little slow but he didn’t want to get pinched down in there so he just went.”
(Windsor Castle Stakes)
Lost lone start on turf at Churchill Downs in May.
In that race, the Irish-bred son of Belardo showed brilliant speed away from the gate, put away one mid-race challenger but then was run down in final jump by Cadillac Candy to lose by a head.
“Take nothing away from the winner, but the winner had a start on the dirt,” Ward said.
“My guy is a real chubby dude, so that race is really going to do him a lot of good. I’d have preferred him having come away a little slower but he didn’t and he made all but the last jump.”
(Palace of Holyroodhouse Handicap)
A three-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Ribchester, Ruthin finished seven as the favourite in the Windsor Castle Stakes last year.
She didn’t run again until winning the Limestone Stakes, a five and a half furlong turf race at Keeneland in mid-April, by a neck.
“She had a little bit of a throat issue last year, we didn’t do any surgery or anything, the vet said just give her time to develop so we just gave her time,” Ward said.
“Barbara’s really excited about getting whatever we can to Ascot so she warranted going there winning the Limestone.”
Ward believes Ruthin will be better at five furlongs than five and a half “so she’s going to have a good showing as well.”
(Platinum Jubilee Stakes)
This four-year-old daughter of Kodiac seeks her third straight victory at Ascot having won, the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes in 2020 and, via disqualification the Group 1 Commonwealth last year.
She came off a six-month layoff to win the Giants Causeway, a listed stakes going five and a half furlongs at Keeneland in mid-April.
“Irad rode her very confidently,” Ward said. “I told him that she likes the outside, so he kind of broke and had a hold of her from the first jump and just kind of worked his way out. He let her go and off she went. It was a big race.”
Campanelle has worn blinkers in her previous two starts to Ascot but took them off for her race in the Giants Causeway.
Ward said that Campanelle had a history of bearing out in her races, but “this year she’s pretty straight so we took them off.”
Ward also prefers the six furlongs to five furlongs. “She’s better six than five, she’s got a big long, stride to her.”