Golden Pal is set to return to British turf as Wesley Ward hopes he can lead the American contingent at Royal Ascot, live on Sky Sports Racing.
The four-year-old has won already this season, taking the Grade Two Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland by an impressive four and three-quarter lengths on April 9.
The performance has left Ward expecting big things from the sprinter when he joins a team of horses for the trainer’s regular pilgrimage to the Royal meeting in June.
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“Golden Pal is doing great, he really is. I have been singing this horse’s praises for a couple of years now and the only thing he hasn’t done yet is win on your patch. Hopefully, he can get it done!” Ward said of the King’s Stand Stakes entrant.
“It was a powerful performance from him in the Shakertown – but it was a comeback and I really think his next run is going to be something special. He is a once in a lifetime horse – certainly the best I have ever had – and I think he will stamp that with his performance at Ascot if he runs like I am expecting him to.
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“Physically, he is an awesome specimen now and mentally he is really coming into his own. I am just so excited to get him back over there.”
Another Ward runner set to head to Berkshire in summer is Platinum Jubilee contender Campanelle, twice a Royal meeting winner having landed the Queen Mary in 2020 and last year’s Commonwealth Cup, albeit awarded the latter race in the stewards’ room.
Wesley Ward (right) winning one of his 12 Royal Ascot races
“Barbara Banke (owner) and her team are so excited to get Campanelle back over there. She had a strong performance on her comeback win at Keeneland the other day. If you watch that race against some of the fastest fillies in the country, what she did was pretty impressive,” said Ward.
“Between her and Golden Pal, I think we are going in with some big chances. They are running in races that I have won before and I really feel this pair are coming into their respective races as good, if not better, than my previous winners.”
Ward has enjoyed 12 winners at the Royal meeting, eight of whom were juveniles, and the trainer is hopeful that he will be well-represented in two-year-old contests again this year.
“We have our first grass maidens for two-year-olds in the US at Keeneland this week,” he said.
“Then there are maidens at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park as well. I will have runners across those races and how they get on will determine who travels.”
Another States-based trainer eyeing Ascot is Christophe Clement, who was a handful of entries made for his stable stars.
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Pizza Bianca, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, has thrown her hat in the Coronation Stakes ring, while Slipstream, Derrynane and Big Invasion are all pencilled in for the Commonwealth Cup.
“All options are open for Pizza Bianca after her second at Aqueduct last weekend. I am yet to have a discussion with the owner and suspect we will make a decision in the next two or three weeks,” said Clement.
“We have a great programme here now for three-year-old fillies on the grass, in particular the New York Triple Crown. I am very happy to keep her here for that but if the owner wants to go to Ascot, then I am very happy to do that as well if we think she will be competitive.
“There is another stakes race in four weeks at Pimlico that she could go for and then from there you can go to Ascot. The filly will tell us what she wants to do but at the moment all options are wide open.”
The Prince of Wales’s Stakes could have a contender from Japan as trainer Hideaki Fujiwara has the race in mind for his Dubai Sheema Classic hero Shahryar.
Twilight Gleaming wins at the Breeders' Cup
“It is a great honour for me to have a runner at Royal Ascot in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year,” he said.
“I discussed with the owner (Sunday Racing Co Ltd) about future plans after Shahryar won the Dubai Sheema Classic and we agreed that the next target for Shahryar must be the races with the highest profile in the world.
“I believe the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the ideal spot for the horse.”
Chris Waller has made entries for top Australian sprinters Nature Strip and Home Affairs, with each horse initially engaged in the Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Stand.
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Charlie Duckworth, Waller’s assistant trainer and racing manager, said: “We have nominated both Nature Strip and Home Affairs for the King’s Stand Stakes and the Platinum Jubilee Stakes.
“This is to keep our options open as anything can happen with horses but we should have an exciting Royal Meeting, that is for sure.
“It is phenomenally exciting for Chris to be entrusted in the training of one champion sprinter, but to have two champions in the same year is just incredible.
“Then to be in a position to travel to Royal Ascot, especially in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year, makes it all the more special.”