Wesley Ward is keen to let the dust settle on Golden Pal’s nightmare trip to Royal Ascot before considering plans for the rest of the season.
The dual Breeders’ Cup winner was the narrow favourite to get the better of a highly-anticipated international clash with crack Australian sprinter Nature Strip in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes, but his race was over before it began, with the usually rapid starter completely missing the break.
Golden Pal was ridden by leading American rider Irad Ortiz Jr, who was making his Royal Ascot debut, and Ward explained how confusion at the start led to his demise, with the eventual withdrawal of the reluctant to load Mondammej and Khaadem, who unshipped Jamie Spencer, playing a big part.
“You try to take care of everything right down to the last detail and then that happens,” said the trainer.
“I walked the course before racing with Steve Cauthen and Irad, so Steve gave him some insight as well, and I told Irad ‘this is different from the States’. In the States they have handlers for each horse and they don’t let them go until they’re all set, but here they have no gate handlers, so I said to him ‘when the last horse goes in, they kick the gate’.
“Irad understood that, but what he told me was he looked behind him and there was the horse that hadn’t loaded (Mondammej) and he looked across and saw Jamie Spencer sitting on the side of the gate.
“So then as he looked back again, not knowing that the horse was going to get scratched, he could still see Jamie standing off his horse (Khaadem), so when they kicked the gate Jamie Spencer’s horse went without Jamie and our guy was thinking that the starter was going to wait until Jamie got back on his horse.”
Ward reports Golden Pal to be none the worse for the experience, but whether he returns to Britain for the Nunthorpe at York in August – in which he disappointed last summer – remains to be seen.
Ward added: “He came out of it good, there were no problems at all physically, but we’ll get him home this week and start moving forward again and see where we’re at and where he’s at.
“We’ll see how he is generally and see how his works are and we’ll just have to make another plan. It’s going to depend on him.
“The Breeders’ Cup is right there on our home track (Keeneland), so hopefully he’ll be there.”