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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.”

Racing luminaries pay tribute to Frankie Dettori on 50th birthday

As Frankie Dettori celebrates his 50th birthday, leading figures from the world of racing have saluted his enduring talent:

Sir Anthony McCoy, 20-times champion National Hunt jockey

Tony McCoy (left) and Frankie Dettori at Sandown
Tony McCoy (left) and Frankie Dettori at Sandown (Tony Harris/PA)

“Frankie is like Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods – there’s just something different about him.

“I read a quote from a great philosopher, who said ‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see’. That is what Frankie is like – obviously there’s a lot of talent there, but there’s also that little bit of genius in him that means he can see things faster and better than other people can.

“With the exception of Lester Piggott, he’s the best-known person in racing. A lot of people can talk the talk, but not many can walk the walk, but he has – all around the world.

“Frankie doesn’t need anyone to say how great he is. He’s a brilliant person as well as a brilliant jockey – he’s got it all.”

Aidan O’Brien, record-breaking trainer:

Frankie Dettori winning the St Leger for Aidan O'Brien aboard Scorpion in 2005
Frankie Dettori winning the St Leger for Aidan O’Brien aboard Scorpion in 2005 (PA)

“Frankie is a wonderful jockey, he always has been. He’s a fabulous rider and a great fellow.”

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Ed Dunlop, who teamed up with Dettori for big-race wins with the mares Snow Fairy, Ouija Board and Lailani:

All smiles for the Snow Fairy team following the 2012 Irish Champion Stakes
All smiles for the Snow Fairy team following the 2012 Irish Champion Stakes (PA)

“He’s been a wonderful ambassador, he’s a wonderful jockey and is a great person, There’s no-one quite like Frankie!

“He’s ridden Group One winners for us and for many other other people. And we all wish him a very happy birthday.

“He’s ridden Lailani, Ouija Board, Snow Fairy – who were all great horses for me. He’s hard to get hold of now, but we’ve loved having him riding our horses.”

American trainer Wesley Ward, who uses Dettori whenever he can, particularly at Royal Ascot, with horses like Lady Aurelia and Campanelle:

Frankie Dettori celebrates victory in Queen Mary Stakes with Lady Aurelia in 2016
Frankie Dettori celebrates victory in Queen Mary Stakes with Lady Aurelia in 2016 (David Davies/PA)

“I’m 52 and Frankie is 50 – he sure does look a lot younger than me!

“I hope he keeps going. He’s the greatest jockey in the world, that’s for sure, and has accomplished more than anyone.

“Long live the King!”

Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of Dettori’s first Derby winner Authorized:

He had to wait until his 15th attempt, but Authorized gave Frankie Dettori a Derby at last in 2007
He had to wait until his 15th attempt, but Authorized gave Frankie Dettori a Derby at last in 2007 (Rebecca Naden/PA)

“He’s a fantastic jockey who has stood the test of time.

“I think I used him as a 7lb claimer and I remember him winning a maiden on Dr Devious (in 1991).

“I was very confident Authorized was in good form going into the Derby. I suffer with panic attacks and anxiety, but the good thing going to Epsom was nobody wanted to speak to me as everyone wanted to speak to Frankie, so me and the horse could go there nice and easy.

“He’s been superb and age has certainly not stopped his ability – he’s riding better than ever.”

Ray Cochrane, Dettori’s long-time friend and former agent:

Ray Cochrane received a bravery award for saving Frankie Dettori's life in a plane crash
Ray Cochrane received a bravery award for saving Frankie Dettori’s life in a plane crash (John Stillwell/PA)

“It’s hard to believe he’s 50, although it does seem a lifetime ago when we first introduced to each other at Luca’s.

“He’s still doing well for an old boy! He’s a brilliant jockey and has been a great ambassador for the sport – he’s the best.”

Sir Michael Stoute, who has combined with Dettori to win big races all over the world:

Sir Michael Stoute hugs Frankie Dettori after Conduit won the St Leger
Sir Michael Stoute hugs Frankie Dettori after Conduit won the St Leger (John Giles/PA)

“Frankie has a perfect physique in addition to which he is a gifted horseman with a very competitive nature. It is a good mix!”

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.”

High hopes for Ward juveniles on opening night

Wesley Ward has high expectations for both Campanelle and Golden Pal on the opening night of the Breeders’ Cup.

Both horses will be familiar to British racing fans, having performed at Royal Ascot in June.

Campanelle provided her trainer with a fourth victory in the Queen Mary Stakes – before striking Group One gold in the Prix Morny at Deauville in August.

Running on Ward’s home track of Keeneland, confidence is high Campanelle can add the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf under Frankie Dettori.

“Campanelle is doing great and has been prepared for this since three days after the Morny,” said Ward.

“It’s her home course, so all we’ve got to do is lead her over from stall to stall.

“She’s been training great – she’s got some new shoes on, and we’re ready to roll.”

Campanelle will be tackling a mile for the first time, having not previously raced beyond the six furlongs she won over in France.

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Ward added: “I’m happy with the mile. We’ve tried to emulate the same schedule as we followed with Hootenanny, who was narrowly beaten in the Morny a few years ago and then won over the mile at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita with Frankie.

“We’ve got Frankie, we’ve got the mile – and this time we’re on our home track, so we don’t even have to ship to California.”

Campanelle’s American rivals include Aunt Pearl and Plum Ali, while European hopes are carried by Aidan O’Brien’s Mother Earth, Ken Condon’s Miss Amulet, Jessica Harrington’s Oodnadatta and Nazuna from Roger Varian’s yard.

Ward is confident of getting off to a flyer in the very first Breeders’ Cup race of the weekend, with Golden Pal the hot favourite for the Juvenile Turf Sprint over five and a half furlongs.

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

Narrowly beaten by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, the son of Uncle Mo has since bolted up in a stakes race at Saratoga – and Ward is unconcerned about the prospect of being drawn widest of all in stall 14.

“He’s the favourite, and everybody knows what I think of this horse,” said Ward.

“That (stall 14) is the hole I would have picked if I was given the choice. He’s outside and he shouldn’t have any issues, whereas if he was drawn on the inside or in the middle and broke a step slow, he could encounter traffic.

“I will be disappointed if he doesn’t win. We’re excited for all the runners, but this guy has shown so much talent and ability from early on, we’ve got big hopes.”

Golden Pal is set to be joined by a trio of stablemates in Amanzi Yimpilo, Into The Sunrise and After Five.

Ubettabelieveit takes on Golden Pal
Ubettabelieveit takes on Golden Pal (Francesca Altoft/PA)

Hollie Doyle makes her Breeders’ Cup debut aboard Archie Watson’s Mighty Gurkha, O’Brien saddles Lipizzaner – and Nigel Tinkler is looking forward to running surprise Flying Childers winner Ubettabelieveit.

Tinkler said: “I think the horse is very professional. He’s a very intelligent horse, so he’s not going to do anything stupid. He has grown up and he’s got stronger.

“Its five and a half furlongs, which I think will be absolutely ideal. I’m a little bit concerned because it’s going around a bend, and last time he hung a little bit to the right in the last furlong.”

The TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the dirt promises to be an informative affair, with Steve Asmussen’s Kentucky Derby favourite Jackie’s Warrior taken on by Essential Quality and Ward’s Next – who won at the track just a fortnight ago.

Ward said: “We’re coming back from a short rest. I know you guys in Europe do that a lot with the two-year-olds, but every time I do it you can stick a fork in mine!

“But he’s on his home course and ran a big race here two weeks ago, which is why we’re taking a chance.

“We’ll find out of if he’s good enough, number one, and if the short rest takes a toll on him.”

Bob Baffert’s Princess Noor heads the betting for the Juvenile Fillies ahead of Simply Ravishing, Dayoutoftheoffice and Girl Daddy.

Fallon fine-tunes Ward’s Breeders’ Cup squad

Kieren Fallon has joined Wesley Ward in America to put the finishing touches to some of his Breeders’ Cup contenders.

The six-time champion jockey rode the likes of Campanelle and Golden Pal before their appearances at Royal Ascot this summer, and Ward feels his experience could prove invaluable in preparation for next month’s showpiece meeting at the trainer’s home track of Keeneland.

“Kieren has come over to join is, which we’re all excited about,” said the Washington-born trainer.

Kieren Fallon is lending his expertise to Wesley Ward
Kieren Fallon is lending his expertise to Wesley Ward (Tim Goode/PA)

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“He’s going to help us take Campanelle and Golden Pal into the Breeders’ Cup.”

Campanelle lunged late to win the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, before beating the boys in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

Ward considered a return to Britain for last month’s Cheveley Park Stakes, but decided to wait for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf on November 6.

Ward added: “Campanelle is doing great. She’s had some really nice breezes – she actually breezed this past Sunday on the turf and had a really nice workout.”

Another major contender for Breeders’ Cup honours from the Ward stable is Golden Pal.

Narrowly beaten by Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting, the Uncle Mo colt was in line for a tilt at the Nunthorpe at York, but instead remained in America and has since bolted up in a Stakes race at Saratoga.

He was scratched from a recent Listed race at Keeneland, but Ward could not be happier with his charge as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint nears.

He said: “I figured it was better to train him right into the race. As good as he is, I didn’t think he needed a prep.

“He’s training fantastic right now.”

Asked which other horses he was looking forward to running across the two-day meeting, Ward added: “I’ve got a really nice colt named Outadore, who is two from two and won the big money race down at Kentucky Downs. His workouts in the morning are beautiful.

“We’ve got Royal Approval, who recently won the Matron

“She didn’t care for the soft ground at Ascot. But she got some firm ground, which she likes, and she skipped over it at Belmont.

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).”

Monday Musings: Time Flying By

Logic told me time would pass slowly during lock-down. Five weeks in, it’s definitely speeded up, writes Tony Stafford. I spoke to my son twice last week, briefly on Sunday and then again for a few minutes more on Friday and I swore that there could only have been a couple of days between the two contacts.

Twin came around on BBC4 again on Saturday evening in my favourite 9 p.m. international drama slot and will already be finished by next weekend. Thankfully I’ve now joined BBC I-Player so I can have a second look on the confusing bits of that rapidly-evolving and brain-challenging eight-part (two each week) Norwegian epic when I get some time. I was very disappointed that Spiral, a series of series I most wanted to see and that motivated my joining, is not on the list.

The other evening it was still light when the Thursday 8 p.m. clapping reverberated from the flats all around. Racing fans in the UK, denied so much since the shut-down on March 18 and more so in Ireland, will have lost most markedly; along with the mainstream we all are aware of, the accelerating number of evening meetings, many of them over jumps, that bolster the normal spring racing menu have also been cancelled. Just to let you know, the days start getting shorter in nine weeks’ time!

The Racing Post’s online-only newspaper carries the cards, like Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay, that have kept racing going in Florida. Like everyone else, the Post included, I expected the Wesley Ward juveniles on show at Gulfstream on successive early evenings last week to do a Lady Aurelia and blow away the opposition.

But both on Thursday and Friday, first the 30-100 shot Lime, a daughter of Iqbaal, and then Golden Pal, 1-2 (by Uncle Mo), contrived to show the trademark Ward early pace only to succumb in almost identical fashion to a single stronger finisher even though their races were over only four and a half furlongs.

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This pair was reportedly among the planned Ward annual contingent for Royal Ascot but first that spectator-free entity needs to be confirmed as does secondly that overseas runners may be accepted if it does. Should they come, I’m sure the traditional fear in which they are held by home trainers may have been a little diluted, although there’s plenty of time for Wesley to build some of that extra physical maturity that his juvenile challengers always seem to display.

I’ve been intrigued by the identity of today’s evening offering at Will Rogers Downs and thought it might justify a little investigating. I wasn’t at all prepared for what I readily discovered on the web. Will Rogers Downs is a gaming (principally, of course) and horse racing venue in Rogers County, close to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is operated by the Cherokee Nation.

That administrative area encompasses 14 counties in North-East Oklahoma and a local population of around 200,000 in one way or another descended mainly from Cherokee and two other Native American tribes.

If that wasn’t unusual enough, the jockeys and trainers will be totally unknown to most of us, unlike the stars who descend on Florida each winter and spring, especially with New York firmly shut down. For the record, Floyd Wethey, Jr. is the top rider so far in 2020 and Scott Young is leading trainer. Tonight’s 10-race card offers one quite valuable prize, a near £25k to the winner fillies and mares race. I won’t put forward a potential winner.

The gaming provides the prizemoney and the track keeps a chunk of all the race wagering. Gaming is also keeping the UK bookmaking companies going, and if the number of advertisements for casino betting that we see in the commercial breaks on most channels nowadays is indicative of betting levels in these odd times, gambling is probably going off the charts.

How the BHA must wish it could get its claws on even a small percentage of that massive cake, not that it would be right to do so (as we saw with the FOBT fiasco). Maybe they should ask Captain Tom to do a sponsored walking-frame-push around the Ascot paddock on his 100th birthday on Thursday next week while singing his chart-topping duet with Michael Ball of You’ll Never Walk Alone? The £23 million (probably more by the time you read this) by which his exploits will be aiding the NHS efforts exceeds the not-insignificant £22 million that the Levy Board is targeting to help racecourses and others through their troubled financial times.

Yesterday we went for a fourth walk of the lockdown, this time forsaking the Olympic Park, for the newly (at Easter) re-opened Victoria Park, which is in the opposite direction. The park had been closed for some time after that initial period when sunbathing and all the other indicators of holidays in good weather in the summertime caused a Government re-think. Everyone was doing the keep-out-of-the-way six-feet walk yesterday; there is no cycling and all the dogs including our Yorkie Josephina were on a lead.

What was obvious, though, was that while the ground is not yet showing any real suggestion of much new growth, the five weeks of drought, following hard on the months of near waterlogging, has already brought great cracks in the turf at some places.

Hughie Morrison has been kindly sending me a brief video every Friday of Ray Tooth’s big homebred and still unraced three-year-old Bogeyman going through his paces. Each week they have been working on the wonderful grass gallops, developed over many years by the Cundell family but now owned and managed by Sir James Dyson.

The Victoria Park phenomenon is extending into Berkshire as the colour of the terrain seems to be lightening week on week. How ironic, with barely a day’s racing after the turn of the year and before Cheltenham being staged on anything but soft or heavy ground, unless we get some rain soon, it will be firm or as near as makes no difference when we resume. Expect to see stand-pipes in the streets by July.

Finally, after hearing that he thinks racing should start as soon as possible – Nick Rust’s line at the weekend too – it was salutary that Mark Johnston has subsequently revealed he is in isolation at home after being quite ill after contracting Covid-19. It must be so frustrating, frightening even, with the Flat season still to start, for Britain’s winning-most trainer that the new norm is so alien. I’m sure that everyone in racing will be wishing Mark, wife Deirdre and their family and staff all the best in the coming trying days.

- TS