Wesley Ward has won ten races at Royal Ascot since he first started sending horses to the big meeting from his North American base in 2009.
He will be back again this year with eight runners after an injury to Lady Pauline forced Ward to withdraw her from consideration for the Queen Mary.
There are still decisions to be made in which races some of his two-year-olds will run, but Ward spoke to exclusively to attheraces.com about his 2019 Royal Ascot contingent.
ANNA’S FAST (Queen Mary or Albany): This daughter of Fast Anna was purchased out of the March two-year-old-in-training sales at Ocala in Florida for $470,000.
Ward gave her a trio of three-furlong workouts and she debuted at Keeneland on April 24 with an easy-as-she-pleased 5 1-2-length victory going 4 1-2 furlongs on dirt under Tyler Gaffalione.
Ward has breezed her three times on turf at Keeneland.
“It was an excellent debut,” Ward said.
“They paid a lot of money for her a month prior. All I did was taught her how to get out of the gate, left all the training from what was put into her for the two-year-old-in-training sales. She won with speed to spare, a real-eye opening performance.”
Ward is planning to work Anna’s Fast on June 12 before sitting down with her owners to determine in which race to run.
BOUND FOR NOWHERE (Diamond Jubilee): This will be the third straight year Bound for Nowhere has competed at Royal Ascot. In 2017, he finished fourth in the Group 1 Commonwealth and last year he finished third in the Diamond Jubilee.
Ward lamented the trip Bound For Nowhere got last year in the Diamond Jubilee when he broke running from the far side post and found himself on the lead under Joel Rosario but virtually by himself while the rest of the field was running on the grandstand side.
“The whole field congregated to the stand side, leaving Joel hung out to dry,” Ward said.
“He was in front and didn’t know what to do. Joel tried to ease his way back toward the field while being in front. He lost the lead, and then regained it back but was outfinished. The whole thing got convoluted because of that early situation.
“Had Joel been more experienced riding him, he could have snuck up behind horses, got him out and made a run and I think he would have won.”
Bound for Nowhere, a five-year-old son of The Factor, enters Ascot off a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland where, under Luis Saez, he again found himself on the lead.
Ward has enlisted Tyler Gaffalione to ride Bound For Nowhere in the Diamond Jubilee and will instruct him to get the horse behind runners early.
“Tyler is a real thinking-type, young guy,” Ward said. “We’re going to go over the race. If I get the type of ride I’m looking for, I’m going to be really happy.
“Of all the chances I have this is my best chance in my mind with the right ride,” Ward concluded. “I’m really confident Tyler can do it.”
CHILI PETIN (Windsor Castle or Norfolk): Inexpensive daughter of City Zip (she sold for only $32,000 as a yearling) was hard-used by John Velazquez to make the early lead but she did win her 4 1-2-furlong debut by 2 3-4 lengths on April 17 at Keeneland. After that win, Ward has worked her on the grass four times.
“She won very, very nice at Keeneland but when I put her on the grass she moved up 10 lengths as far as I was concerned,” Ward said.
“She won on dirt because she’s talented, her future is grass. Originally we thought the Windsor Castle but her (June 2) work was most impressive and I’m going to sit down with the owners and see if they want to go in the group race, the Albany or Queen Mary.”
FOOLISH HUMOR (Windsor Castle): Well-bred filly who brought, $200,000, as a yearling, won her debut by 2 3-4 lengths at Belmont Park on May 2, stalking stablemate Pushover and drawing way despite never changing leads.
She is by Distorted Humor out of the winless dam Foolish Cause. The dam is a half-sister to the multiple Grade 1-winning U.S. turf star Get Stormy.
“She won nicely at Belmont and her subsequent works from that win have been most impressive,” Ward said.
“She’s a big, heavy filly, who seemed too chubby to race. We thought the race would tighten her down a little bit but she held all her weight. With every work, though, she’s starting to trim down a little bit.”
KARAK (Queen Mary or Norfolk): A daughter of the Japanese-bred Karakontie, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2014, this $365,000 two-year-old-in-training purchase in March won her debut on May 25 at Belmont by three lengths.
Ward is somewhat worried about whether she has enough foundation to peak at Ascot.
“She only had three breezes with me total from the time I got her at the March sale,” Ward said. “She ran an impressive race, but she goes from that race at Belmont to Ascot with not a lot of time.”
Ward said he plans to work her on June 12.
KIMARI (Queen Mary): A daughter of Munnings who brought $152,000 as a yearling, she broke slow in her debut, was rushed up hard by John Velazquez and was ridden almost all the way to the wire to win by 15 lengths at first asking on April 25 at Keeneland.
She has breezed three times on turf at Keeneland and seems to have taken a step forward.
“She’s going to move forward from that race,” Ward said. “She loves grass.”
MAVEN (Norfolk): This colt was the first North American winner sired by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh, taking his debut by a half-length going 4 1-2 furlongs at Aqueduct on dirt.
Maven is out of the dam Richies Party Girl, a three-time turf sprint stakes winner.
Ward said Maven’s first work on turf was not that impressive as Chili Petin ran away from him in a May 12 move at Keeneland. But Maven’s subsequent moves were better. It was after his June 2 move Ward decided to scratch Maven from a $150,000 listed dirt takes at Belmont on June 7 in which he would have been favourite.
“His first work on the grass, he was rank, threw his head and Chili Petin ran away from him,” Ward said.
“He outworked her in their next work. He grew an affinity for the turf. I wanted both options. I didn’t want to take a horse over that I didn’t think I could win with. I think I’m making the right decision.”
NAYIBETH (Albany): This $230,000 yearling purchase is by Carpe Diem and is a half-sister to Soldat, a horse who won stakes on both turf and dirt in the U.S.
Nayibeth flashed speed and turned her aside her Ward-trained stablemate Owlette by 4 1-4 lengths in a 4 1-2-furlong dirt sprint at Keeneland on April 17. Owlette, came back to win her next start at Woodbine.
“She’s always been my favorite of all my two-year-olds from when we started breezing them early on,” Ward said. “Joel (Rosario) won on her with speed to spare. She’s trained very well going into the Albany.
Ward said that Nayibeth strikes him as a filly who will eventually want to stretch out in distance.
“She looks like more of a filly that will go a route of ground and it’ll take that to go six furlongs on a straight course.”