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.
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.”