Camapanelle and Aunt Pearl head the star quality on course to travel to Royal Ascot this year from America.
Brad Cox’s unbeaten Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Aunt Pearl is in the reckoning for the Coronation Stakes on June 18 – one of eight Group Ones throughout the famous five-day meeting, at which entries for 12 races have been published.
Aunt Pearl’s credentials are due to be tested on her comeback run in the Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs later this week.
She is one of eight US-trained Ascot entries, also including Campanelle – winner of last year’s Queen Mary Stakes and fourth to Aunt Pearl at Keeneland, for Wesley Ward – and Brendan Walsh’s top sprinter Extravagant Kid, who could bid to pull off the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee Group One double.
Liz Crow, who represents Aunt Pearl’s owners, reports the filly in great form as she bids to extend her record on her three-year-old debut.
“We first want to see how Aunt Pearl performs on Friday in the Edgewood,” she said.
“She is doing great at the moment. She has been training really well and we are excited to see her back out.
“Hopefully, she comes back and wins well – and then we will be able to move forward with the plan of running at Royal Ascot.”
Campanelle provided Ward with his 11th Royal Ascot success last year, before beating the boys in the Prix Morny at Deauville two months later.
She is one of Ward’s two entries in the Commonwealth Cup, alongside Illegal Smile, while he also has Diamond Jubilee and King’s Stand aspirations with Bound For Nowhere and Maven respectively.
He said: “Campanelle did us proud last year, and the owners are really excited about bringing her back for the Commonwealth Cup.
“I have had my eye on this for some time, because I think the stiff six furlongs on the straight course will suit her really well.
“We are looking to give her a prep race about a month out from Ascot, although where that will be I am not sure yet.
“Our other filly in the Commonwealth Cup, Illegal Smile, will be out in a five-furlong race on the grass at Churchill Downs. How she gets on there will determine whether she travels.”
Bound For Nowhere is a veteran of three Royal Ascot missions already, but it is not yet certain he will return.
Ward added: “Bound For Nowhere made a really exciting comeback at Keeneland recently.
“With him, we are jostling over bringing him to Ascot again or going for a Grade One sprint on Belmont Stakes day. It will be a while before we make a decision on that.”
Ward also has high hopes for Maven, and singled out recent Keeneland winner Ruthin as a major contender to add to the yard’s four previous Queen Mary victories
“The filly by Ribchester, Ruthin, produced an eye-opening performance at Keeneland last week,” he said.
“We expected her to run well going into the race. Not all horses produce in the afternoon what they show you in the morning, but she did, and it was great to see.
“She is on a direct course for the Queen Mary Stakes.”
Extravagant Kid has taken his form to a new level at the age of eight, having won the Al Quoz Sprint under Ryan Moore at the Dubai World Cup on his most recent start.
Walsh said: “Everything has been good with Extravagant Kid, and Royal Ascot is the target if all goes well between now and then.
“It was a proper performance from the horse in Dubai.
“Extravagant Kid has entries in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee. Both races have their appeal, and it made sense to enter for both because he is quite versatile.
“We will see how each race is shaping and make our minds up nearer the time. I would not write off him running in both just yet, although I would say it is unlikely.”
A stellar home and European challenge will of course await the trans-Atlantic travellers.
John Gosden’s Lord North holds an entry to defend his Prince of Wales’s Stakes crown – with Aidan O’Brien’s dual Classic-winning filly Love and William Haggas’ globetrotter Addeybb, runner-up last year, also in the mix.
O’Brien’s Battleground won the Chesham Stakes in 2020, and may be back in the St James’s Palace Stakes this time.