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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)
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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)

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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.

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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.

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“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).”