Rosalind (inside), a Grade 1 winner in America, is one of eight Americans headed over to England for the Royal Ascot meet. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
While the Triple Crown is fading in racing’s rearview mirror, fans have another chance to see top class racing from June 17 to 21 in England. The most famous five days in turf racing, the Royal Ascot meet at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire, England, has some of the best horses from around the world running at the track over the five-day meet.
Once again, America will be represented at the meet both by trainers and American graded stakes-winning horses throughout the week.
American trainer and Royal Ascot veteran Wesley Ward will be running six 2-year-olds at Royal Ascot and is searching for his fourth victory at the meet.
Ward was the first American trainer in history to win at Royal Ascot when Strike the Tiger won the Windsor Castle Stakes and Jealous Again won the Queen Mary Stakes in 2009. Last year, Ward won the Norfolk Stakes with No Nay Never and was a close second in the Queen Mary with Sweet Emma Rose.
Ward starts off his Royal Ascot campaign with Hootenanny in the Windsor Castle Stakes on Tuesday. While the colt hasn’t yet raced on the turf, he did impressively win a Keeneland maiden race over the Polytrack during the track’s spring meet.
“We're going to start off the week with a beautiful colt called Hootenanny, who will run in the Windsor Castle Stakes (on Tuesday),” Ward told Brisnet.com. “He won a maiden race at Keeneland with a really excellent performance and then I ran him on the dirt at Pimlico (where he finished badly) … I think he will be running in one of the weaker two-year-old races, being a listed race, so he can get the week off to a good start and leave everybody smiling.”
In addition to Hootenanny, Ward will be attempting to win his second Queen Mary Stakes with Spanish Pipedream on Wednesday. The filly, who won by 4 ½ lengths at Keeneland in her only career start, is by Scat Daddy who also sired No Nay Never. Ward is also doing a quick turnaround with Sunset Glow, who won a maiden race at Belmont Park the day before the Belmont Stakes, as she is running in Friday’s Albany Stakes.
In an attempt at a Norfolk Stakes defense, Ward is likely to send out filly To Be Determined against the boys. This isn’t her first time against the opposite sex as she was third in an open 2-year-old maiden race at Churchill Downs in early May.
Ward will close out his Royal Ascot meet in the first race on Saturday with both Cordero and Crown the Kitten expected to run in the Chesham Stakes.
WARD (second from right) AND KEN RAMSEY (third from right in front row)
Cordero is an unraced colt who is partially owned by Miami Heat basketball player Rashard Lewis. Crown the Kitten, a filly owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey will also be wheeling back quickly from her debut, as she was second behind Sunset Glow on June 6. Victor Espinoza, winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will ride all five of Ward’s early week horses and will get to choose between Cordero and Crown the Kitten in the Chesham Stakes.
But Ward isn’t the only American with horses running at Royal Ascot.
Trainer Kenny McPeek will be sending Grade 1 Ashland Stakes dead-heat winner Rosalind to the Coronation Stakes on Friday. The filly was last seen finishing fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. Rosalind has had only one actual race on the turf, a 2 ½ length victory, but Polytrack success has translated well to turf success in the past.
American-trained Ancil will also be taking his shot at the Royal Ascot meet. A 5-year-old stakes winning gelding trained by Joan Scott, Ancil is entered in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes going five furlongs on Tuesday. While he doesn’t have any graded stakes victories, Ancil won the Turf Dash Stakes at Tampa Bay in March over the same distance.
Some other U.S. fan favorites who are based in Europe will also be running throughout the week, starting with multiple American Grade 1 winner Verrazano in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ET.
Verrazano is now trained by Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and finished a credible third in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes in his European debut on May 17. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf victor Outstrip will also be running on Tuesday in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He finished last in the Quipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes in May but it was reported by Godolphin that the horse was found to have a problem when he was examined by a veterinarian after the race. Trainer Charlie Appleby said that after a few weeks off, the colt has been training well heading into this race.
VERRAZANO AFTER WINNING LAST YEAR'S PEGASUS STAKES AT MONMOUTH
The following day, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Giovanni Boldini is running in the Jersey Stakes, the first race of the card. He will be looking for his first on-the-board finish since the Breeders’ Cup. One of the most anticipated races of the week is the Prince of Wales Stakes later that day when we see 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner (and U.S. champion female turf horse) Dank take on Magician and The Fugue, the 1-2 finishers of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf. The task will be anything but easy for them as they have to face last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Treve among three others.
MAGICIAN AND THE FUGUE BATTLING IT OUT AT THE BREEDERS' CUP
While not a horse related to the U.S., Estimate, who proved to be a popular winner for the Queen last year, is back on Thursday to defend last year’s Gold Cup victory. If Estimate wins this year, she will be a three-time Royal Ascot victor as she won the Group 3 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in 2012.
Saturday’s entries aren’t yet finalized but both 2014 American St. Leger winner Dandino and three-time Grade 1 Canadian International winner Joshua Tree are entered in the Hardwicke Stakes at this entry stage and Saratoga maiden winner Due Diligence is entered in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Final entries for those races will be released later in the week.
Royal Ascot’s first race goes off at 9:30 a.m. ET from Tuesday to Saturday this week with all races airing on HRTV and TVG.