WHILE many get excited by the sight of the Queen at Royal Ascot, racing fans and punters every year cannot wait to see what horses American trainer Wesley Ward is bringing over.
Ever since Strike The Tiger’s shock win in the 2009 Windsor Castle Stakes, Ward has routinely come across to Royal Ascot and plundered some of the biggest prizes.
Once again Lady Aurelia leads his team as she goes for back-to-back wins in the King’s Stand Stakes. We spoke to Ward about her prospects, and got the lowdown on his other raiders.
Royal Ascot is just around the corner. How are you feeling ahead of the meeting this year?
We think our horses are going to run fantastic and I think we’re going to win, but you have to be realistic and appreciate you’re competing against huge fields and against every trainer from Britain, Ireland and France who is also thinking the same as we are. We’re very hopeful and positive and excited. It’s such a brilliant time to go over to such a wonderful and opulent place.
You have been extremely successful with your Royal Ascot runners in past years. Do you get any nerves ahead of the meeting at all?
It used to be that you’d hide in the bathroom and then glance up at the TV as they’re coming back under the stands to see if they’ve done it. Now you’re able to look at the races and know you did your best in preparing the horse for the race. Then it’s down to the good Lord Almighty and the jockey to make sure everything goes well. You celebrate if you win and if not you appreciate that you’re at Royal Ascot and it’s the toughest racing in the world.
Lady Aurelia leads your time in the King’s Stand Stakes. Can she win at Royal Ascot for the third time in a row?
I hope so. She’s a wonderful filly. We called it out after her win last year that we’d come back and defend her title and it’s been the plan since then. She’ll have to be as good as she’s ever been, but she loves it here and thrives here and is doing great.
Undrafted, who won the 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, runs in the Wokingham this year. How is he settling into things?
He loves England. He thrives and it’s like home for him. That’s a big point I made to the owners and one of the key things for horses to run well is to send them places where they’re happy. I think he’s going to run big.
Bound For Nowhere runs in the Diamond Jubilee this year. How do you rate his prospects?
I think I’m bringing the best turf sprinter in the United States to this meeting and I’m super excited about that. He ran a beautiful race at Ascot last year so we know he likes it there and travels well too.
Hemp Hemp Hooray, Lady Aurelia’s work partner, goes for the Jersey Stakes. Can you see him making an impact?
He’s more of an outsider of the horses I’m running but I can see him running well. When he gets to the races the adrenaline kicks in, his eyeballs come out and he runs as best he can – so I hope that means he can show up good.
Chelsea Cloisters represents you in the Queen Mary Stakes, a race you are trying to win for a fourth time. Do you think she can do it?
She’s a super talented filly and I’m really excited about her. Her win was by many lengths and she’s come out of that race in great shape. She likes firm ground.
Shang Shang Shang takes on the colts in the Norfolk Stakes, why is that?
We have Chelsea Cloisters already for the Queen Mary and I think she’s our best filly. I think the Norfolk’s the right race for Shang Shang Shang and I like taking on the colts with a filly as I think it can be an advantage.
How about your other two-year-old runners – where do they go and how will they get on?
Our Passion and Moonlight Romance go for the Windsor Castle. They both have grass pedigrees and have been doing great workouts in the morning. Stillwater Cove runs in the Albany and just won on her debut. She didn’t get a great ride that day but still won. She’s been doing great too and I’m excited about her.
And, finally, are there any other runners you are looking forward to this week?
Master Merion is training with Bound For Nowhere and he goes for the Royal Hunt Cup. He stays a mile well and he’ll have Ryan Moore riding him.