Wesley Ward became the first U.S-based trainer to saddle a winner at the prestigious Royal meeting when he scored a double in 2009.
He has gone on to win a further five races in the last four years, including his third Queen Mary in 2016 with Lady Aurelia, who is among his contingent this year.
Ward, 49, a former champion apprentice rider in the U.S, returns to Royal Ascot with a team of ten scheduled runners in 2017.
Here, Wesley Ward talks exclusively to attheraces.com about his Royal Ascot runners.
ARAWAK (Coventry Stakes): This son of Uncle Mo won a four-horse, off-the-turf maiden race by seven lengths going five furlongs at Belmont Park in his lone career start on May 26.
Has been working with Happy Like A Fool, whom Ward says is his best 2-year-old of any gender.
“He wasn’t as impressive in his dirt race as he is on the grass,” Ward said. “He came back and worked well against my best filly. He’s got a bigger, longer stride and the Coventry is six furlongs so he should like that.”
John Velazquez, a Hall of Fame rider who won on Arawak at Belmont, is coming to Ascot to ride this horse.
LADY AURELIA (King’s Stand Stakes): A seven-length winner of the Grade 2 Queen Mary Stakes last year, the 3-year-old filly seeks more Ascot glory taking on older fillies and mares in the King’s Stand.
She kicked off her 3-year-old season with a 2 1-2-length victory in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes for 3-year-ols and upwards at Keeneland in April. Ward noted Lady Aurelia got a 5 on the Ragozin handicap sheets and he gave the filly “a little time after the race to get over that big number.”
Ward said that with each work Lady Aurelia is “getting stronger and stronger” and that her previous experience at Ascot course should only help her.
“On the day she won it was soft going so it shows that surface won’t be much of an issue,” Ward said. “She rated in her last start, so it’s not like she has to go to the front. The distance is right and going in a Group 1 against older horses with a 3-year-old filly she gets a weight concession.”
ELIZABETH DARCY (Windsor Castle Stakes): The first time she was ever on the grass was when she won her career debut at Indiana Grand by 7 3-4 lengths on May 24.
Ward said that Elizabeth Darcy did all her winter training on dirt in Kentucky because she suffered a strange injury to her head when she fell backwards one morning and he didn’t want to ship her to Florida in the heat.
“She had a piece of bone removed from the back of her head so we sent her to Keeneland in December; there are no flies up there so we let that wound heal,” Ward said. “I waited for a grass race and she just ran off and hid from them. But her works since at Keeneland were very, very good so I think she’s going to be competitive.”
NOOTKA SOUND (Windsor Castle Stakes): A daughter of Lonhro, she trounced maidens on dirt by 5 1-4 lengths at Keeneland on April 27.
“She has an all turf pedigree so for her to win on dirt like that showed her quality,” Ward said. “She’s much better on grass. I look for a big race out of her.”
Ward was initially thinking of waiting to run Nootka Sound a week later in a group race in France, but after training her on the turf at Ascot this week he decided to run here.
“She worked beautifully over the grass at Ascot, it’s a race I’ve won a couple of times and she’s doing great right now,” Ward said. “I think we’re going to have a big chance.”
HAPPY LIKE A FOOL (Queen Mary Stakes): Ward labels this filly the best 2-year-old he has and his best chance to win a race at Royal Ascot.
Ward, who owned this filly when she won her debut by four lengths at Keeneland in April, has since sold her to the Merribelle Farm of John Moore and Charles Noell.
“From Day One she showed the most talent of any 2-year-old I’ve had,” Ward said. “Her brothers are stakes horses on turf for Mark Casse.”
FAIRYLAND (Queen Mary Stakes or Albany Stakes): Ward said he would prefer to run her in the Albany so not to run her against Happy Like A Fool, but noted that Coolmore, who owns Fairyland, would have the final say on which she race she runs in.
She won a 4 1-2-furlong dirt race at Keeneland on April 7 but has been working extremely well on the turf since then. Waki Patriot, who finished in a dead-heat for second behind Fairland came back to win her next start Keeneland.
She was bumped off the early flight from America to England due to baby warts on her face, Ward said. She needed topical medication to get them removed and she shipped on June 13 along with the other American horses participating at the meet.
“She’s a very talented filly,” Ward said.
CON TE PARTIRO (Sandringham Handicap): Has developed a new style over time, going from a horse that was forwardly-placed to one that now sits back and makes one late run.
“When she breezes in the morning she shows speed, but when she races, she drops back,” Ward said. “I’ve only trained a few like that.”
Ward said in her most recent workout in the U.S. she outworked Undrafted, who won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2015.
MCERIN (Norfolk Stakes): After winning his debut by 7 1-2 lengths at Keeneland on April 12, he finished third, beaten a neck in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on May 4.
“When he ran the other day he got off a step slow and had to rush to the lead,” said Ward, who added that jockey Julio Garcia told him “if he broke like he usually does he would have been two in front controlling the race from the outset and it would have been a different outcome. He was beaten on the square but his works on the grass since at Keeneland have been phenomenal.”
PRINCESS PEGGY (Albany Stakes): Daughter of Scat Daddy won her debut in the slop by 5 1-4 lengths at Belmotn Park on May 25 in a race originally scheduled for the turf.
“We’re taking a big swing with her,” Ward said. “Is she that quality? We’ll find out.”
BOUND FOR NOWHERE (Commonwealth Cup): Didn’t make his first start until January when he won a maiden race by six lengths over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. His speed ratings improved significantly when he won an entry-level allowance on the turf by 4 1-4 lengths at Keeneland in April.
“He took a long time and being I owned him I was able to give him the time and not be pressured,” Ward said. “I forego taking him to Florida, I wanted him to run him in easy maiden race which I got at Turfway.”
In his second start, he jumped slowly and came with a run to win going away.
“He was Lady Aurelia’s workmate and she kept besting him, and besting him and besting him,” Ward said. “But since that race, in one or maybe two breezes he was better than her. He’s training great.”