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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.”

King’s Stand goal for Breeders’ Cup hero Golden Pal

Wesley Ward will target the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot next summer with Golden Pal following his sensational display at the Breeders’ Cup.

Mowed down late by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes on his first visit to Britain earlier this year, the Uncle Mo colt made a successful return to his homeland at Saratoga in September before blitzing his rivals in the Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

While Golden Pal has the option of running against his own age group in the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting in June, Ward views the King’s Stand over five furlongs as a more suitable target.

“We’re really excited about bringing Golden Pal back to Royal Ascot. It was a great day at Keeneland and we’re really looking forward to 2021,” said the Washington-born trainer.

“We’re working from the King’s Stand backwards. I think we’ll go for the Commonwealth Cup with Campanelle and let the colt run against the older horses in the five-furlong race.”

Campanelle won the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot four months ago before claiming Group One glory in France in the Prix Morny.

Campanelle won the Queen Mary under Frankie Dettori
Campanelle won the Queen Mary under Frankie Dettori (Julian Finney/PA)

The daughter of Kodiac was well fancied to double her top-level tally in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, but had to make do with minor honours in fourth behind the hugely-impressive Aunt Pearl and the Irish pair of Mother Earth and Miss Amulet.

Ward added: “I think it was maybe the end of the long season for her. We got her back home early after Deauville and prepared for the race, but there was a lot of training involved.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the winner, because she ran great.

“We’re already looking forward to Royal Ascot next year with Campanelle, too.”

Golden Pal scorches to Juvenile Turf Sprint success

Royal Ascot runner-up Golden Pal dominated from the front in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

Mowed down late by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes in June, the Uncle Mo colt had since blitzed his rivals in a stakes race at Saratoga after connections abandoned plans to return to Britain for a tilt at the Nunthorpe at York.

With Irad Ortiz Jr in the saddle, Golden Pal was the red-hot favourite to provide trainer Wesley Ward with back-to-back in the Grade Two contest following the victory of Four Wheel Drive 12 months ago – and the result was scarcely in doubt.

Ward’s charge made a rapid start from his wide berth, enabling him to cross the field and take an early lead.

Ortiz Jr briefly took his mount back, before giving him his head before the home turn and he quickly put clear daylight between himself and his rivals.

His advantage was being eroded late on, but Golden Pal was ultimately well on top at the line, with Cowan a fast-finishing second.

Nigel Tinkler’s Flying Childers winner Ubettabelieveit fared best of the European raiding party in third after blowing the start.

Ward said: “He’s just amazing. I got a little worried on the backside when Irad took a hold of him as he lost a little momentum, but then he just accelerated down the lane and he’s a champion colt.

“When he showed a bit of acceleration passing the quarter-pole I knew we were OK, although I got a little worried in the last part. I was hugging my son, but we got there!

“Royal Ascot here we come – we’re going to get it this year!”

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Winning owner-breeder Randy Lowe was a proud man – and outlined big plans for next year.

He said: “I bred him out of my mare Lady Shipman and right from the moment he was born and put his chin in the palm of my hand I knew he was going to be special.

“Winning a race at the Breeders’ Cup has been my ambition for 35 years so this is one of the greatest days of my life.

“I named him Golden Pal after my mentor John C Mabee, whose best horse was Best Pal.

“Regarding Wesley, he has chased me for a few years to send him one and because he liked this horse so much, I thought let’s let him have a try.”

He added: “In the race Irad tried to pull him back because we’d spent a lot of time teaching to rate, but then he let out a notch (of rein) and he was in control.

“Owing to the Covid restrictions we were unable to go to Royal Ascot to see him run, so we threw a breakfast party in the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. I remember as we watched the race develop I couldn’t believe it when he got caught.

“I think the plan will be to rest him and then bring him back here at Keeneland in early April, but the big plans are the King’s Stand Stakes, the Nunthorpe and the Breeders’ Cup again next year.”

Coral make Golden Pal the 9-2 favourite for the King’s Stand, ahead of Battaash at 5-1.

Ubettabelieveit ran an excellent race in defeat
Ubettabelieveit ran an excellent race in defeat (Francesca Altoft/PA)

Tinkler was delighted with the performance of Ubettabelieveit, saying: “We put ear plugs on him so he wouldn’t hear the bell so loud and obviously he fell out of the stalls, but it probably helped him in some ways because he got a good run through.

“We’re obviously delighted with him and I thought the jockey (Rowan Scott) gave him a great ride.

“He probably didn’t quite get the trip – he’s a five-furlong horse, it was five-and-a-half today and in the last 50 yards he just got a little bit tired, but we’re very pleased.

“We know he’s a very good horse and we’re fortunate to have him. We’ll look forward to next season and he’ll have a good break now.”

Hollie Doyle was out of the places on the Archie Watson-trained Mighty Gurkha, on what was her first Breeders’ Cup ride.

She said: “He jumped well, but we hit a flat spot and lost our position and then he couldn’t quicken in the straight. It’s been a great experience and I’ve loved every minute here.”

Vequist claimed top honours in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer ‘Butch’ Reid and jockey Joel Rosario.

The previously unbeaten Dayoutoftheoffice made much of the running and had most of her rivals in trouble at the top of the home straight.

However, she was unable to resist the late surge of Vequist – who had been unlucky when second to Dayoutoftheoffice last time out – against the far rail.

Joel Rosario celebrates aboard Vequist
Joel Rosario celebrates aboard Vequist (Michael Conroy/AP)

Reid said: “It was her first time going round two turns, but she is a super filly with very good speed.

“She can click off 12-second eighths (of a mile) almost endlessly and we knew she was doing very well coming into this.

“She was actually sold and the new owners Gary Barber and Tom McGrath chose to stay with me, which is something that doesn’t happen very often.

“It’s sensational.”

Barber said: “Oh my God, this is just awesome! There’s nothing like this in any sport and I’m a huge sports fan. Joel, well what can you say – what a ride. I hope we have a champion filly for next year.

“We were adamant we would keep her with Butch.”

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).”