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Ward eyes Nunthorpe or Flying Five for Golden Pal

Golden Pal will be trained for either the Nunthorpe at York or the Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh following his spectacular return to action in America.

Narrowly denied by The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, Wesley Ward’s speedball went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland in November – putting a return to the Royal meeting on his prospective agenda this summer.

An early-season setback prevented Golden Pal from lining up in the King’s Stand last month – but having looked better than ever in making a successful comeback in the Grade Three Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga on Thursday, another trip to Europe is back on.

Asked whether he felt Golden Pal could be the best horse he has trained, Ward said: “He’s a couple more things to do, but I think he’s on course – I’m really excited.

“Yesterday’s race was five and a half, and the competition wasn’t at the same level as what he would face in the Nunthorpe, but if you shorten that up a 16th of a mile (half a furlong), I think he could run with anything I’ve ever trained.

“Over five furlongs, he’s a killer. He’s just so quick and agile, and mentally he’s really coming around, more so this year than last year.

“He’s always been able to run, but now the rider can contain him – and when he asks for that little burst, very few horses I’ve had have been able to do that.”

Ward would love to settle a score in the Nunthorpe on August 20, having trained both Acapulco and Lady Aurelia to finish second in the Group One feature on the Knavesmire.

But the Washington-born trainer may yet wait for the Flying Five if he feels Golden Pal needs an extra couple of weeks to recover from his exertions.

He told the PA news agency: “The Nunthorpe has eluded me, but hopefully we’ll get it done this year!

“We’ve been having massive rainstorms over here, so there was quite a bit of give in the ground yesterday. He handled the ground well at Ascot last year as well, so he’s got no issues with the ground being a little soft.

“The only issue would be, while he pulled up really good and sound (after Thursday’s race), we’ll see how his energy levels are in his works here in the next couple of weeks – and whether it warrants giving him an extra bit of time for the Flying Five.

“One of those two races is what he’ll be in.”

Another Ward-trained star being prepared for a repeat trans-Atlantic mission is dual Royal Ascot heroine Campanelle.

Campanelle (left) and Dragon Symbol fight out the finish to the Commonwealth Cup
Campanelle (left) and Dragon Symbol fight out the finish to the Commonwealth Cup (David Davies/PA)

Winner of the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room last month, the Kodiac filly’s next appearance is likely to be in France.

“We’re doing really well with her,” he said.

“She had a breeze on the dirt for the first time since I’ve had her last week, and we’re asking the powers that be for a breeze on the grass at Keeneland this week.

“She’s on target for the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville (August 8) and leaves here on July 31.

“Like Golden Pal, she has no issues with softer ground. In fact, it might be better if it rains a little.”

Commonwealth Cup result unchanged following appeal

Connections of Dragon Symbol have lost their appeal against the decision of the Ascot stewards to award the Commonwealth Cup to Campanelle.

The pair fought out a thrilling finish to the Group One contest at the Royal meeting, with Oisin Murphy steering Dragon Symbol to a head victory over the Frankie Dettori-ridden Campanelle.

But Dragon Symbol made contact with Campanelle on more than one occasion during the final furlong and a half, with the stewards deeming the interference significant enough to merit reversing the placings.

Dragon Symbol’s owner Yoshiro Kubota and trainer Archie Watson opted to contest that decision via a British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing, which took place on Thursday morning.

The panel viewed recordings of the race from a variety of positions, including head on, side on and from behind the field, as well as hearing extensive evidence from Dettori and Murphy, plus a brief submission from Watson.

In his evidence, Dettori explained he felt there were three instances of contact in the race, that the interference had caused Campanelle to lose her balance and combined with Dragon Symbol’s “intimidation” he had been “unable to win the race” as he was taken off his his true line and “had no chance of keeping my horse straight”.

Dettori was asked by Louis Weston, representing the BHA, to estimate the distance the interference cost his mount and he said: “It’s hard to say, but approximately 15 metres.”

Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation
Frankie Dettori at the Commonwealth Cup trophy presentation (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Graeme McPherson, for Dragon Symbol’s connections, contested that opinion, suggesting the distance was more in the region of six or seven metres, although all sides agreed Campanelle had moved across by around six horse widths.

Dettori also agreed he had not had to stop riding during the interference, but said his horse had been “intimidated” and “taken off balance” by the incidents.

In a post-race interview on the day, Murphy reported Dettori had said Dragon Symbol was the best in the race, but Dettori insisted Murphy was mistaken.

He said: “There was a conversation, he possibly misheard me or misinterpreted, but I did not say that.”

Murphy reiterated during his evidence the conversation did take place, although he could not recall if it occurred before or after going into the stewards’ room when pressed on the timing.

He said: “After the race, Frankie going into the stewards’ inquiry, he didn’t say to me either way he felt he was going to win the race in the stewards’ inquiry, but he did say to me ‘sorry kid, this is horse racing, you were on the best horse but that’s life’.”

Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed
Oisin Murphy celebrates aboard Dragon Symbol before the placings were reversed (David Davies/PA)

Murphy outlined in his evidence that he “didn’t want to hit the front too soon” and was mindful of conditions on the day, but “the acceleration he showed when given a little squeeze saw him go from a length or two behind to half a length in front in a short period of time, he showed a real burst”.

Murphy further stated that before he asked his mount for maximum effort, Dragon Symbol drifted right and “almost put the brakes on having gone clear”, the rider saying his mount had “leaned on (Campanelle) fractionally” before “running straight and true again”.

He also added he had no recollection of a third instance of contact, with the last interference occurring more than 100 metres from the line, with Campanelle not heading him inside the final half furlong and feeling his horse was “good value” for the winning distance, with something “still to give while Campanelle had given her all”.

During some sparky exchanges with Weston – who accused the rider of being “argumentative” – Murphy admitted to careless riding – for which he received an uncontested four-day ban – but felt the subsequent interference had not affected Campanelle’s ultimate performance, adding he felt she “had every chance to win the race”.

During his evidence, Watson outlined how inexperienced Dragon Symbol was, progressing in a “very short period of time” and having his first race in front of a crowd of “more than stable staff and connections”.

He added that Dragon Symbol does not hang at home and had not shifted in previous races.

Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol
Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol (Simon Cooper/PA)

Having considered all the evidence, the panel, which comprised of chairman HH Brian Barker QC, Tim Etherington and Steve Winfield, dismissed the appeal but the Dragon Symbol team will have their deposit returned.

Written reasons for the panel’s decision will be provided in due course, but in summing up Barker said: “We have given careful attention to the rules and guidelines and taken great care to consider the factual matters and arguments placed before us.

“Our conclusion is that the stewards did come to the right conclusion and that the appeal fails.

“In our view this was absolutely a debatable appeal, something which should have been given careful consideration and in our view the deposit should be returned.”

Appeal lodged against Dragon Symbol decision

Trainer Archie Watson has lodged an appeal against Dragon Symbol’s demotion from first place in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Dragon Symbol passed the post a head in front of Campanelle in last week’s Group One sprint, but the placings were reversed by the Ascot stewards after an inquiry.

The British Horseracing Authority’s independent disciplinary panel appeal hearing is set to take place next Thursday, July 1.

Campanelle was awarded the race, therefore striking for a second successive year at Royal Ascot for American trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Frankie Dettori.

The stewards concluded that interference in the last furlong and a half “had improved Dragon Symbol’s placing” and “the distance lost by Campanelle, who was taken notably off her intended line and bumped on a minimum of two occasions, equated to more than the head by which she was beaten”.

In a BHA release on Thursday afternoon, it was also noted that Dragon Symbol’s jockey Oisin Murphy will not appeal against his four-day suspension for careless riding.

Campanelle awarded Commonwealth Cup in stewards’ room

Campanelle was awarded the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot following a dramatic stewards’ inquiry – having initially been beaten in a photo-finish by Dragon Symbol.

Winner of the Queen Mary 12 months ago, Campanelle was in the firing line throughout under Frankie Dettori and while all her rivals were seemingly feeling the pressure in behind, Wesley Ward’s filly was still travelling well.

However, suddenly Oisin Murphy’s mount Dragon Symbol (4-1) quickened smartly and headed Campanelle, with the two then pulling clear of the pack.

With Campanelle (5-1) drawing back alongside Dragon Symbol, Archie Watson’s three-year-old began to drift to his right, carrying the American across the track with him.

Murphy switched his whip into his right hand, getting his mount straightened up, and the two went at it hammer and tongs for the final half a furlong.

There was little between them as they flashed by the line together, with Dragon Symbol a head in front before the inevitable inquiry was called.

The stewards took their time before announcing the revised placing, with Ward in no doubt his filly deserved the victory.

Wesley Ward (left) celebrates after winning the Commonwealth Cup
Wesley Ward (left) celebrates after winning the Commonwealth Cup (Andrew Matthews/PA)

He said: “I said earlier if we were in the States or Kentucky, we’d be drinking champagne already. Both horses ran fantastic, you can take nothing away from them, they dug down deep and were only inches apart there.

“I think it was a validated result as far as racing in the States is concerned, they came all the way across the track. Archie Watson came over and shook my hand – he’s a true gentleman.

“She really is (good), especially being her first start of the year. For her to come since the Breeders’ Cup, on heavy ground and to get through it and to have a performance like that is a true testament to how good she is.

“I actually thought (the rain) boded well for her chances. We didn’t know if she would like this heavy ground but we knew that at least she did like the soft.

“Winning at Ascot, no matter how you get there, is special. These memories, especially with my children here, since the onset back in 2009 and to have my first winner, Strike The Tiger, take her to post is a very nice touch.

“(Ascot) has changed my life.”

On future plans, Ward added: “We’ll sit down with the owners. She had a really nice work on the July Course (at Newmarket), that (July Cup) might be back a little quick for an effort like today. I ran in the Maurice de Gheest in the past, she’s showed she has an affinity for that track and I think she’d do well on the surface.

“It’s very good spacing for her, so that may be something we discuss.”

Asked to compare Campanelle with his previous stars, Ward said: “Lady Aurelia was very very special and I also I had a champion in America that I own still to this day, Judy The Beauty, but she’s climbing right up if she’s not up there already!”

Frankie Dettori all smiles with the Commonwealth Cup trophy
Frankie Dettori all smiles with the Commonwealth Cup trophy (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Dettori – winning the 76th race of his career at the Royal meeting – said: “It is never nice winning a race in the stewards’ room. I feel sorry for Dragon Symbol’s connections that I took it off them. But in these conditions, when you are taken across about eight lanes, I got nudged three times, lost my momentum and got beaten a head, so the stewards felt they gave me the benefit of the doubt.

“I was coming back on the line, and it was a good effort by Campanelle and by the original winner, but I’m glad that we’ve got it. I feel very sad that I got it, but I had reason to believe that my filly was still the best on the day.

“Campanelle won the Queen Mary, she won the Prix Morny, and now she has won the Commonwealth. They keep on bringing horses here and I’m always delighted to ride winners for Wesley.

“It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth because I didn’t win outright, but that’s the way things go – it’s one lucky one that I got.”

Murphy gained swift compensation by winning the following Coronation Stakes on Alcohol Free, but admitted his disappointment at the stewards’ decision.

He said: “I’m very disappointed for the connections of Dragon Symbol, Archie Watson and his team, and Mr Kubota. I think there was a massive Japanese interest and unfortunately the horse finished the race in front, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“It doesn’t really matter what I feel, the stewards felt Campanelle deserved the race.

“I’m thrilled for Wesley Ward, he brought over a huge team. In fact, in his own words, Dragon Symbol was the best horse in the race, so does anyone else need an opinion? I don’t think so.”

Flying filly Campanelle in good shape for Royal Ascot repeat

Wesley Ward is anticipating a big run from Campanelle as she bids for back-to-back Royal Ascot victories, this time in the Commonwealth Cup.

The three-year-old was triumphant in the Queen Mary Stakes last season and followed that up with a Group One win in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

A bruised heel has prevented Ward from running the bay this season, but the trainer is not concerned by her interrupted preparation and is backing the filly to perform on her first run of the campaign.

“She’s working fantastic,” he said.

“Frankie (Dettori) sat on her the other day and he was happy – once Frankie is happy, I’m happy.”

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning the Queen Mary Stakes
Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning the Queen Mary Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We gave her a little time to get those heels back in order and every work she has done since has shown that she belongs in this race, Frankie worked her last Sunday and was all smiles when he got off her.

“The fact she has not had a prep race is no issue at all for me, my sprinters generally come off the bench fresh and fire first time out.

“Everything about this race looks real suitable for her.

“We know she likes the track and the distance, and even if the bit of rain materialises she won’t mind it.”

Representing French trainer Francois Rohaut is the unbeaten filly Suesa, who has a perfect record of four victories from four runs at Chantilly.

That form culminated in two comfortable Group Three wins in both the Prix Sigy and the Prix Texanita, with the three-year-old steered to success by Oliver Peslier on both occasions.

Complications caused by Covid-19 mean that Peslier has been forced to hand the Ascot ride to William Buick, who will take to the saddle to guide Suesa through her first run on English turf.

“This has always been the plan for her and everything has gone fine so far, she hasn’t done much wrong,” said James Wigan, racing manager to owner George Strawbridge.

“She’s won on heavy going, but her last win was on better ground and Olivier felt that she appreciated it.”

Clive Cox is set to saddle just Isabella Giles, after heavy overnight rain turned the ground soft and resulted in the absences of Diligent Harry and Supremacy.

The Lambourn trainer made it clear conditions will suit his remaining contender when he assessed her chances before the rain arrived.

“Isabella Giles would need easier ground,” he said.

“But as it’s such an important race and there’s a threat of thunderstorms, we’ve just left her in there as an insurance.”

Eve Johnson Houghton has a chance in the shape of Group-level debutant Jumby, who was last seen winning a competitive six-furlong handicap at Newmarket in May.

“I’m thrilled with him,” she said.

Jumby could give Eve Johnson Houghton a second winner of the week
Jumby could give Eve Johnson Houghton a second winner of the week (Mark Cranham/PA)

“He’s a really good horse and hopefully he knows enough, he won really well at Newmarket and the form is working out well so fingers crossed.”

Elsewhere on the Friday card, Alenquer heads the market for the Group Two King Edward Stakes after his victory in bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown.

The colt beat subsequent Derby hero Adayar during that performance, with Godolphin stablemate Yibir, who reopposes, finishing third before his losing efforts in the Listed Dee Stakes and Cocked Hat Stakes.

“If you are Stuart Williams you say ‘Yibir got stuffed, that race was no good’ but if you are Michael Bell you say ‘he beat the Derby winner, he must be a certainty’ – it just depends what angle you take!” Haggas said.

“He’s a nice horse and he’s done well, he had a little issue before the Dante which meant he couldn’t run, but he’s done well since then.

Alenquer is an intriguing runner in the King Edward
Alenquer is an intriguing runner in the King Edward (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s in good shape, he won’t mind what the ground is and I think he wants the trip – not just that he’ll get it – I think he wants it.

“He’s got a chance but it will be competitive.”

Roger Varian’s Title takes hi chance after his Yarmouth win in late May and Mark Johnston’s Gear Up looks to bounce back to form after finishing down the field in the Dante and the Derby.

There is further Group action in the Group Three Albany Stakes, run over six furlongs for two-year-old fillies.

Richard Hannon’s Sows carries high hopes after winning on her debut in a five-furlong maiden contest at Nottingham.

“She won at Nottingham in very good time,” Hannon said via his Unibet blog.

Sows could be a filly of some potential
Sows could be a filly of some potential (Tim Goode/PA)

“She is a very nice filly, who would have needed the run at Nottingham. She will have improved, but she will need to have done.

“We have always liked her a lot and then she just went through a quiet spell, two weeks before we did run her she showed signs she was coming back and she could be a very nice filly.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Flotus is well-fancied after her taking victory on debut at Goodwood, with Ralph Beckett’s Hello You another sure to be popular after looking equally impressive on her first career run at Wolverhampton.

Campanelle out to conquer Royal Ascot again in Commonwealth Cup

Campanelle will face 20 rivals as she bids to double her Royal Ascot tally, in the Commonwealth Cup.

Wes Ward’s American raider won the Queen Mary at the meeting last year, before going to strike Group One gold in the Prix Morny, but she suffered defeat on her final start of the year at the Breeders’ Cup.

The Kodiac filly will be having her first start of the year in Friday’s six-furlong Group One, which has drawn a strong field.

Clive Cox is triple-handed – with last year’s Middle Park hero Supremacy, All-Weather Championships sensation Diligent Harry and the dual Group-winning filly Isabella Giles.

Archie Watson’s prolific Dragon Symbol also features – along with the likes of Sacred, Jumby, Method, The Lir Jet and Dandalla.

A strong Irish contingent will take their chances too – with Ado McGuinness’ A Case Of You, Laws Of Indices and Miss Amulet from Ken Condon’s yard, Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner, plus Measure Of Magic and Mooneista.

The unbeaten French challenger Suesa is also an interesting contender, for Francois Rohaut.

Derby also-ran Gear Up tops the eight lining up for the King Edward VII Stakes – but all eyes are likely to be on William Haggas’ Alenquer, who beat subsequent Derby hero Adayar on his first start of the year in the Sandown Classic Trial.

Impressive Goodwood scorer Flotus is one of 15 in the Albany Stakes – while Epsom winner Oscula represents George Boughey, along with stablemates Cachet and Hellomydarlin.

O’Brien’s Friendly is top weight in the Sandringham Stakes, for which a full field of 30 plus two reserves has been declared.

There is also a full quota – of 19, plus two reserves – for the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap, with Alounak at the top of the racecard, while 25 are declared for the closing Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes, including last year’s Queen Mary third Caroline Dale, set to mark her first start of the campaign.

Campanelle on course for Royal Ascot return in Commonwealth Cup

Wesley Ward’s Campanelle is among 24 colts and fillies left in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

Winner of the Queen Mary last year, Campanelle went on to take the Prix Morny in France too and then finish fourth at the Breeders’ Cup over a mile.

Clive Cox has a strong hand on Friday – with the improving Diligent Harry and Middle Park winner Supremacy, although the latter needs to put a dismal first run of the season behind him.

There is a strong challenger from France in the shape of Suesa, who has been impressive in remaining unbeaten for Francois Rohaut in four outings to date.

Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol, narrowly beaten at Haydock last time out, is another well fancied – while Aidan O’Brien could drop Battleground in trip after he disappointed in the 2000 Guineas behind Poetic Flare.

Method, The Lir Jet, Dandalla, Happy Romance, Miss Amulet and Sacred are others who are likely to have plenty of supporters in the six-furlong Group One for three-year-olds.

O’Brien has supplemented The Mediterranean among 15 for the King Edward VII Stakes – from which, as expected, Sir Michael Stoute’s Bay Bridge is an absentee.

The Ballydoyle handler could also run Baton Rouge, Hector De Maris, Kyprios, Matchless, Sir Lamorak and Wordsworth.

William Haggas’ Alenquer will no doubt attract many backers, given he was last seen beating Derby winner Adayar at Sandown.

Sir Mark Todd will be saddling his first Royal Ascot runner in the shape of Tasman Bay, while Mark Johnston’s Gear Up could make a quick reappearance after the Derby.

There are 24 fillies in the Albany Stakes – with a pair from George Boughey’s stable to the fore, in Beautiful Sunshine and Cachet.

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Flotus, Ralph Becket’s Hello You and Ward’s Kaufymaker – who is thought more likely to run in the Coventry Stakes – and O’Brien’s Prettiest all made a big impression when winning on their debuts.

A total of 39 have been entered for the Sandringham Stakes, in which Roger Charlton’s Lucid Dreamer could look to bounce back from a below-par run in the Fred Darling.

The Duke of Edinburgh Stakes has attracted 43 entries – including Favorite Moon, who last ran in Australia for Haggas. Last year’s winner Scarlet Dragon could be back again.

Kaufymaker to set tone for Wesley Ward’s Ascot team

Wesley Ward is delighted to be back in Britain as he saddles another strong team of runners for Royal Ascot next week.

It is 12 years since the then little-known American became the first US-based trainer to land a winner at the showpiece meeting, with Strike The Tiger claiming a 33-1 victory in the Windsor Castle. The following day, he sent out Jealous Again to win the Queen Mary Stakes.

The outbreak of coronavirus meant Ward was forced to watch on from his base in Kentucky as Campanelle provided him with a fourth Queen Mary win and an 11th Royal Ascot triumph overall under Frankie Dettori last summer.

But the relaxation of restrictions means the popular handler will be on course this time – and with fast ground forecast, confidence is high that he can add to his tally.

“The sun is shining, and the horses are looking fantastic, so we’re golden at the moment,” said Ward.

A team of nine horses has made the trans-Atlantic trip, including seven two-year-olds.

The first juvenile in action will be Kaufymaker, who will bid to become Ward’s first winner of the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday.

Ward added: “We’re going to head to the Coventry with the filly (Kaufymaker), and she will probably tell the tale.

“All the two-year-olds are training great, but if you were to line them all up, she would be the one that would be in front – that’s going six furlongs, I’m not sure about five.

“I think Kaufymaker will be a good measure of how my horses are going to run. If she wins then we’ll be tough (to beat) – and if she gets beaten then we may be outclassed!”

Ward confirmed running and riding plans for the rest of his squad, with American ace Johnny Velazquez travelling to partner the majority.

Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes under Frankie Dettori
Campanelle winning the Queen Mary Stakes under Frankie Dettori (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Ward said: “We’ve got Kaufymaker and Maven in the King’s Stand on Tuesday; then on Wednesday we’ve got Twilight Gleaming in the Queen Mary, and both Ruthin and Napa Spirit in the Windsor Castle.

“On Thursday, in the Norfolk we’ve got Lucci and Nakatomi, and on Friday we’ve got Campanelle in the Commonwealth Cup and Golden Bell in the Albany – that’s the line-up.

“Johnny is riding all of them, except for Napa Spirit and Campanelle, who will be ridden by Frankie (Dettori), and Nakatomi will be ridden by Oisin Murphy.

“Johnny arrives today. He’s doing fantastic and is really looking forward to coming over again.”

Campanelle ‘in fantastic order’ with sights firmly set on Commonwealth Cup

Wesley Ward reports star filly Campanelle to be in “fantastic order” ahead of her return to Royal Ascot next month.

The daughter of Kodiac provided the popular American trainer with his fourth victory in the Queen Mary Stakes at the showpiece meeting last June before going on to beat the boys in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

She could only finish fourth on her final appearance as a juvenile trying a mile for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup, but is reported to be firing on all cylinders ahead of an intended outing in the Commonwealth Cup on June 18.

Ward said: “She had a beautiful breeze at Churchill Downs on the grass on Sunday and came out of it in fantastic order.

“We’re going to keep working each and every Sunday all the way up until we get on the plane.”

The Washington-born handler had originally planned to give Campanelle a prep outing, but having missed an engagement in April, he has decided to run her at the Royal meeting first time out.

Campanelle was too good for her rivals at Ascot last year
Campanelle was too good for her rivals at Ascot last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “We’re going to train her right in there. She’s training great and has fired well off a lay-off in the past.

“When she arrives (in Britain) she’ll go to the Rowley Mile in Newmarket, or wherever they want us to go, and she should be right on target for the Commonwealth Cup.”

Ward is assembling another strong team of juveniles for the Royal meeting, with several having booked their ticket across the Atlantic with runaway victories in recent weeks.

The filly pencilled in to follow in Campanelle’s hoofprints in the Queen Mary is Ruthin, who made a hugely impressive start to her career when blitzing her rivals at Keeneland.

Discussing some of his two-year-old team, Ward said: “Ruthin is headed for the Queen Mary and we had a nice winner on Sunday at Belmont called Lucci. He’s a really nice colt and we’re going to go for the Norfolk with him.

“We’ve got Golden Bell for the Albany, and then we had a nice winner over the weekend called Twilight Gleaming and she will probably go for the Windsor Castle.”

Two Ward-trained stars who are not bound for Berkshire are Like A King and Golden Pal.

The St James’s Palace Stakes was mooted as a possible target for Like A King prior to his creditable effort in the Kentucky Derby at the start of the month, while top-class sprinter Golden Pal is being readied for the Nunthorpe at York in August following an early-season setback.

Golden Pal (right) is heading to York
Golden Pal (right) is heading to York (Julian Finney/PA)

“Like A King was my first Kentucky Derby starter. I always wanted to come with a horse with a chance and I thought he had a chance, just because he comes from way back with a big run,” said Ward.

“He gave us a little thrill there turning for home when he made up a bunch of ground. He got within five lengths of the lead and the commentator said ‘and here comes Like The King’, which gave us all a little thrill, and then down the lane he just flattened out a bit.

“I think he’d be good on the grass in a race like the St James’s Palace, but I think we’re going to run him in a stakes race at Churchill and then go to the Belmont Derby.

“Golden Pal is here at Keeneland and will be running around Ascot time here at home – maybe a week or two after Ascot.

“After that, we’re going to centre in on the Nunthorpe.”

Campanelle and Aunt Pearl headline American aces in line for Royal Ascot

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.

Frankie Dettori celebrates with Campanelle
Frankie Dettori celebrates with Campanelle (Edward Whitaker/PA)

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.”

Wesley Ward is always to be feared at Royal Ascot
Wesley Ward is always to be feared at Royal Ascot (Steve Parsons/PA)

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.

Setback means Ward speedster Golden Pal to miss Royal Ascot

Wesley Ward hopes to have star sprinter Golden Pal back to his best in time for the Coolmore Nunthorpe after being forced to rule him out of an intended appearance at Royal Ascot.

Narrowly beaten by The Lir Jet when runner-up in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, the son of Uncle Mo went one better in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at his trainer’s home track of Keeneland in November.

Ward had hoped to give the three-year-old a prep run this spring before returning to Ascot for the King’s Stand – but Golden Pal will not be back until later in the season after suffering a minor setback.

“It’s disappointing as we were so excited for the King’s Stand, but you know how these fast horses are and we’re happy to have him bounce back,” said the Washington-born trainer.

“He’s good again now and should have his first start (of the year) around Ascot time (in America).”

Having saddled both Acapulco and Lady Aurelia to finish second in the Nunthorpe at York, Ward has everything crossed Golden Pal can break his duck in August, adding: “I’ve had too many seconds in that race – I’ve got to get one!”

While Golden Pal is not Royal Ascot-bound, Ward is preparing another strong team for the showpiece meeting.

Campanelle on her way to winning the Queen Mary Stakes
Campanelle on her way to winning the Queen Mary Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Campanelle, who provided her trainer with a fourth win in the Queen Mary Stakes last year, is being readied to take on the colts in the Commonwealth Cup this time around.

Her stablemate Kimari was second in the Commonwealth Cup last season – and could this season contest the Diamond Jubilee, having won twice in her homeland already in 2021.

“Campanelle was going to run at Keeneland last week, but she just wasn’t quite right on the day,” Ward said.

“There’s a race in May we can use as her prep and then we’ll be ready for Ascot.

“I need to talk to the owners of Kimari, but she’d be another possible to travel over.”

Another potentially fascinating addition to Ward’s Ascot squad is Like The King, who impressed in the Grade Three Jeff Ruby Stakes at Turfway Park last month.

However, his first target is to provide a trainer more renowned for training sprinters with victory in the Kentucky Derby on May 1 – a race for which Like The King sits fourth on the points leaderboard after the completion of the qualifying races.

Ward said: “He’ll have his next two works on the dirt, this weekend and next weekend, because he’s 100 per cent heading for the Derby.

“He could possibly be a Royal Ascot starter as well, though. I’ve always wanted to have a runner/winner in the St James’s Palace and we worked this guy on the grass last week and he had an ultra-impressive turf work.

“We’ll see how his next two works are on the dirt and how he runs in the Derby, but he’s a big, rangy colt and the St James’s Palace would be a great race for him.”

Ward is still in the early stages of assembling his team of Royal Ascot two-year-olds, with the juvenile turf races at Keeneland not getting under way until next week.

But he enjoyed a double on the dirt on Thursday, with Averly Jane already on the shortlist for a trip across the Atlantic following a scintillating display.

“Averly Jane was very, very impressive. She kind of geared down and won in the fastest time of the meet,” said Ward.

“She had only had three fast works in her lifetime before she ran, which is what made it so impressive – there’s going to be a big upside with her, I think.

“I spoke with the owners and she would be one we’re targeting at the Albany Stakes at Ascot as it looks like she’ll go a bit further.

“We have the first turf races for the two-year-old next week – Thursday for the fillies and Friday for the colts.

“We hope we have a couple of other nice ones to run then.”

Ward has Royal Ascot ambitions for Campanelle and Golden Pal

Wesley Ward is lining up a high-profile assault on two of the sprint features at Royal Ascot, with the sights of both Campanelle and Golden Pal set on the headline meeting in June.

Campanelle is being aimed at the Commonwealth Cup following a fruitful juvenile campaign that saw her win the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal meeting, before going on to lift the Group One Prix Morny in France later in the summer.

She had to settle for fourth on her final start of 2020 upped to a mile at the Breeders’ Cup meeting, and Ward expects her main target to be the Commonwealth Cup back over six furlongs rather than either the English or Irish 1000 Guineas, for which she holds an entry.

Frankie Dettori celebrates after Campanelle's win last year
Frankie Dettori celebrates after Campanelle’s win last year (Edward Whitaker/PA)

He said: “Barbara (Banke, owner of Stonestreet Stables) is really keen on Ascot and I think six furlongs – and that’s a stiff six at Ascot for the Commonwealth – with a little weight break for being a filly, that will be our main target.

“I’m kind of working from that race backwards – the Guineas really don’t come into play right now unless when she’s at the farm, the team gets together and decides to go in another direction.

“Our main goal would be the Commonwealth. Barbara and her whole team are really looking forward to getting back (to Royal Ascot). She worked last week for the first time at Barbara’s farm at Ocala and she looked like she’s ready to go, so we’re all excited.”

Lady Aurelia won the King's Stand for Ward in 2016
Lady Aurelia won the King’s Stand for Ward in 2016 (David Davies/PA)

Campanelle is one of the three top-rated fillies in Europe last year, with Ward’s star being given a mark of 113 along with Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous and Shale, who was victorious in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Ward was previously responsible for a top-rated filly in Lady Aurelia, who also won the Queen Mary and Morny before returning to Ascot to lift the King’s Stand Stakes the following year.

While Ward compares the two favourably, he believes Campanelle will shine over further than five furlongs.

Speaking via Zoom at the British Horseracing Authority’s two-year-old classifications press conference, he added: “They’re similar in their accomplishments, but I still believe Campanelle will stretch out a little bit – she’s a bigger, scopier filly and she will go a little further, that’s why we tried her at a mile at the Breeders’ Cup.

“I think it was a case of it was the end of the year, she had a long season whereas Lady Aurelia was beaten in the Cheveley Park over six and we found out she was better at five. This filly was going a mile and I just think it was just a long, long season.”

The Lir Jet (left) was a shade too good for Golden Pal last year
The Lir Jet (left) was a shade too good for Golden Pal last year (Julian Finney/PA)

Golden Pal also ran at the Royal fixture, being edged out by neck by The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes, and he is also on course to return.

The Uncle Mo colt went on to win the Juvenile Turf Sprint at the Breeders’ Cup meeting and Ward has high hopes he can emulate Lady Aurelia.

He said: “We’re really excited about this guy. He will come back opening day at Keeneland, which is April 1. Every year they have a straight, three-year-old, $100-$150,000 stakes race over five and a half furlongs and that will crack off the season for him.

“He’s doing fantastic – he came out of the Breeders’ Cup in great shape and we’re going to try the same route we did with Lady Aurelia and go to the King’s Stand with him. I think the five should see him right between the ears there.

“He’s grown in height and he’s broadening out – he’s a really beautiful colt right now. I think he’s going to be a tremendous sprinter this year.”

Battaash and Golden Pal are on course to clash at Royal Ascot
Battaash and Golden Pal are on course to clash at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Reigning champion Battaash is due to kick off his campaign with a King’s Stand defence – and Ward would relish a clash between the two speedsters.

He said: “I’m a big fan of that horse. We’re excited to come back over, it’s always tough to come to the home court where he has the advantage.

“The Nunthorpe has eluded me and that will almost be the main goal for this guy. We’re going back to the King’s Stand (first), but as the summer progresses the three-year-olds catch up to the four-year-olds and I’m really looking forward to that race at York.

“This guy (Golden Pal) has proven he can go on all types of ground – he’s a very exciting sprinter, one of the best I’ve ever trained and hopefully could be the best with the accomplishments we’ve set out for him this spring, summer and hopefully culminating in the fall.

“He’s a really, really exciting horse to train, so we’re looking forward to it. Battaash is a very worthy opponent. The years are hopefully behind him, but I’m a big fan of his and when you get these good sprinters matched together, it just brings excitement to everyone involved in racing.”

Wesley Ward is hoping to make it to Ascot this year
Wesley Ward is hoping to make it to Ascot this year (Julian Herbert/PA)

While Ward had runners at Ascot last year, the Covid-19 pandemic meant travel for all but essential staff was not possible and the meeting was run behind closed doors.

However, he is hoping the situation will improve this year, allowing his family to make the journey to Ascot.

He added: “It’s not only for me, but my kids really look forward to coming there each and every year, they’ve been coming for over a decade now, so that’s a big mark in the calendar they look forward to.

“My oldest son has been coming since he was nine and he has a lot of friends over in Europe and England, so we’re looking forward to it hopefully opening up this year.”

Aunt Pearl produces power-packed performance in Juvenile Fillies Turf

Aunt Pearl was a brilliant all-the-way winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland.

Brad Cox’s filly was the clear favourite to extend her unbeaten record to three following a Grade Two victory at the track a month ago and took a step up to the highest level in her stride with an awesome front-running display.

Florent Geroux’s mount made a smart start and quickly opened a clear gap over the rest of the field, with Wesley Ward’s Queen Mary and Prix Morny heroine Campanelle leading the chasing pack for much of the way under Frankie Dettori.

In truth, however, the remainder never looked like landing a blow on Aunt Pearl from the home turn, as she kept pouring it on and passed the post with plenty in hand.

The Irish pair of Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth and Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet made late gains to finish second and third respectively, with Campanelle weakening into fourth.

Cox said: “She did a similar opening quarter to what she did in the Jessamine Stakes here – I felt pretty confident she would have some kick left and she certainly did.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt (she can improve) and if you dig into her pedigree a little bit it looks like she could maybe even go beyond a mile.

“She’s a super talented filly and I’m very proud of her.”

Geroux raised the possibility of a trip to Britain for Aunt Pearl in 2021, saying: “She’s phenomenal – she’s purely gifted.

“Her workouts in the morning have been exceptional. She goes so fast, but she comes back to me (settles).

“I hope we can go to England with her next year – that would be great.”

Syndicate spokesman Michael Dubb said: “We have bought a lot of horses overseas through Liz Crow and this was one of the fillies. We knew from the beginning that she was the best.

“Brad is a genius. He plots everything and has enormous attention to detail. In fact he just lives and breathes horses. I do think she is in a league of her own and wherever we go, it will be another great ride.

“She has so much natural speed that we decided to let her roll as there was no reason to take it away from her.

“We will talk to the partners and of course to Brad, we will leave it up to him to plot a campaign.”

Asked if a trip to the UK could be on the agenda, Dubb said: “I leave everything up to my trainer and I don’t want to start telling him where he should run.”

Of Campanelle, who was trying a mile for the first time, Dettori said: “I had to chase her out of the gate before restraining her and that meant giving the winner four lengths.

“I think she would get seven furlongs, and at least we tried.”

Ward plots direct route to Breeders’ Cup for Campanelle

Campanelle will head straight to the Breeders’ Cup after connections decided against a tilt at next weekend’s Cheveley Park Stakes.

Having provided Wesley Ward with a fourth success in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, the daughter of Kodiac successfully graduated to Group One level in last month’s Prix Morny at Deauville – a third win in the race for the ebullient American after No Nay Never and Lady Aurelia.

A tilt at the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Saturday week was under serious consideration, but Ward is keen to keep his powder dry for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf on November 6.

Ward said: “Campanelle seems in very good shape and she’s having her first breeze since Frankie (Dettori) steered her to success in France on Saturday.

“We took her out of the Cheveley Park. I just felt I’d like to keep her under my thumb a little bit before going to the Breeders’ Cup.

“She’s done everything we’ve asked of her – she’s three from three. We were struggling to find a turf maiden for her, eventually we did at Gulfstream and it was only 20 days between that race and the Queen Mary.

“With the shipping as well, I would never usually run them back that quick, so for her to go and win at Royal Ascot showed she’s a super good filly and then she won much more impressively at Deauville after a good spacing since Ascot.

“I think this filly could be something really special and I don’t want to ship her over and back again before the Breeders’ Cup.

“By keeping her here, we have a good couple of months to make sure she’s at her very best.”

Campanelle is likely to spearhead a strong Breeders’ Cup team for Ward, with the showpiece meeting this year taking place at the trainer’s home track of Keeneland.

Golden Pal (right) was touched off by The Lir Jet at Royal Ascot
Golden Pal (right) was touched off by The Lir Jet at Royal Ascot (Julian Finney/PA)

Another leading contender for the team is Golden Pal, who was narrowly beaten by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Uncle Mo colt was in line for a tilt at the Nunthorpe at York, but he instead remained in America and has since bolted up in a Stakes race at Saratoga. The Juvenile Turf Sprint is his Breeders’ Cup target.

“He’ll breeze on Saturday as well. It was a shame we couldn’t come over for York, but he’s a super quick horse, as he showed in his last race at Saratoga,” Ward added.

“The Breeders’ Cup race for him is over five and a half (furlongs). He’d prefer five as he has so much speed, but it’s his home track and I still think he’s going to be tough (to beat).”