Several Highs at Royal Ascot for Horses with U.S. Ties


United States multiple Grade 1 winner Verrazano finished second in the Queen Anne Stakes to kick off the 2014 Royal Ascot meeting. Overall the meet was a successful one for horses with ties to U.S. racing. (Video courtesy of Racing UK)

Tuesday, June 17

The United States got off to a good start at Royal Ascot on the first day of the meet when Hootenanny won the Windsor Castle Stakes at 5 furlongs to close out opening day.

The 2-year-old colt made easy work of the 24-horse field, breaking sharply from the gate to be one of the leaders running down the 5-furlong straight turf course. As the field reached the final furlong, Hootenanny was in the clear and pulled away to win by 3 1/2 lengths.

“It looks easy [winning at Royal Ascot] but really it is a lot of work. Its starts with breaking the horses in September and October and I don't get home at night until 8 to 9 p.m. seven days a week in Florida,” winning trainer Wesley Ward said after the race.

"This is the cream of all of them coming over here. When I first came, it was a bit of an unknown, but now I know the races, the conditions and Royal Ascot. Hopefully, I can bring older horses, too, in the future and some of my counterparts in America will come and see the magnitude of the meeting. To me, Royal Ascot is bigger and better than the Breeders' Cup.”

Hootenanny’s victory was Ward’s fourth career win at Royal Ascot and his second in the Windsor Castle. But Hootenanny wasn’t the only one who made the United States proud on the first day of the Royal Ascot meet as Verrazano finished a credible second in the Queen Anne Stakes.

A multiple Grade 1 winner in the United States formerly trained by Todd Pletcher, Verrazano was transferred to Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien at the start of this season. Last year’s Haskell Invitational Stakes winner has seemed to carry his talent over to the grass as he finished third in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes on May 17.

In the Queen Anne Stakes, Verrazano one-upped himself when he finished only three-quarters of a length behind highly regarded Toronado in the opening race of the royal meeting.

Verrazano has run at a mile in his two European starts, but O’Brien is looking at possibly stretching the 4-year-old out to longer distances later this season.

“He looks like he will get further and has to be considered for races like the Eclipse, Juddmonte and Irish Champion,” O’Brien said. “He's a big horse and we might not have him fit yet!”

It is also worth noting that Queen Anne Stakes third-place finisher Anodin is a full-brother to three-time Breeders’ Cup winner and U.S. champion Goldikova.

Outstrip also represented Breeders’ Cup winners on Tuesday when he finished third in the St James’s Palace Stakes. The Godolphin-owned colt won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but was looking to rebound in the St James’s Palace from a last-place finish in the Qipco Two Thousand Guineas. He finished only a length behind 2,000 Guineas winner Night of Thunder and 3 ¼ lengths behind 2,000 Guineas runner-up and St James’s Palace winner Kingman.


Courtesy of Racing UK

Wednesday, June 18

Giovanni Boldini started the second day of the Royal Ascot meet off on a good note for former Breeders’ Cup World Championships runners when he finished third in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes.

The colt nearly won the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but was collared close to the finish line by Outstrip at Santa Anita Park. Dropping back to 7 furlongs for this run, Giovanni Boldini’s third-place finish was the first time he has hit the board this year.

While Wesley Ward’s raid on Royal Ascot didn’t go as well as his first run of the meet, he still had something to be proud of in the Queen Mary Stakes.

Ward sent Spanish Pipedream out to face 20 other horses in the 5-furlong, Group 2 race for 2-year-old fillies with hopes of scoring a Royal Ascot double. Spanish Pipedream wasn’t able to beat Anthem Alexander or Tiggy Wiggy, who were a half-length in front of the rest of the field.

Spanish Pipedream finished in a photo for third place, and it was determined that Spanish Pipedream finished fourth, giving Wesley Ward his third top-four finish in the race.

The Breeders’ Cup influence continued two races later in the Princes of Wales’s Stakes, the most anticipated race of the card. Breeders’ Cup winners Magician and Dank lined up against a field that included Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up The Fugue and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victress Treve in arguably the most talent-laden race of the whole meet.


Courtesy of Racing UK

Elkaayed bolted to the front, opened up many lengths and led throughout most of the race, but the action picked up when the field turned into the stretch. Magician took the lead into the last furlong but in a reversal of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, The Fugue took over and pulled away to win by two lengths with William Buick aboard. Treve finished third with all three horses breaking the course record of 2:02.52 set by Cirrus Des Aigles in 2011.

“The Fugue was in top order today - we didn't have to stop the ferries, the planes and the ports! Full credit to Treve, it was marvelous of them bring her here,” said winning trainer John Gosden. “I think she is unbeatable over a mile and a half with cut in the ground in the autumn, and we would not go near her then. But I thought we had half a chance if we met Treve on good to firm ground over a mile and a quarter in mid-summer.”

Thursday, June 19

While the third day of the meet was not a memorable one for the Americans, it was an exciting day of racing nonetheless.

Wesley Ward’s only entry on the day — and the only United States-trained horse running — To Be Determined started in the Norfolk Stakes to begin the day. After a few antics behind the starting gate and a bad break, the filly was never a factor and finished last in the race.

The Ascot Gold Cup later on the card provided the most riveting finish of the Royal Ascot meet.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Estimate returned to attempt to win her second straight Gold Cup and faced Ladbrokes St. Leger winner Leading Light in the race. It was one for the ages as Leading Light and Estimate came down to the finish line together with pacesetter Missunited also in the battle. The Queen did not get her repeat victory but she couldn’t be too disappointed with Estimate’s performance as she finished only a neck behind Leading Light with Missunited a head back in third.

"Your heart would be in your mouth [watching the finish],” said Aidan O’Brien, Leading Light’s trainer. “Obviously, he's idling and I thought he had a lovely position, settled well, but when the race came on he was a little slow to react. I thought [jockey] Joseph [O’Brein] did well because Leading Light was very lazy when he got there. I think Joseph was trying to get in company with him. I am delighted.”


Courtesy of Racing UK

Friday, June 20

Perhaps the day with the biggest potential for Americans was the second-to-last day of the Royal Ascot meet.

It started out well with Wesley Ward’s Sunset Glow going straight to the leading in the Group 3 Albany Stakes. It looked like Ward would get his second victory of the meet as the filly approached the finish line but Cursory Glance snuck by as Sunset Glow was battling Patience Alexander. It was still a strong performance from Sunset Glow, who lost by two lengths in only her second start on the turf.

Wesley Ward was a little disappointed that Ascot had watered the track the night before, and he blamed that partially for Sunset Glow’s finish.

“She ran a very, very valiant race and I am really proud of her,” he said. “The speed [front-running] is going to be tough for the first couple of races and then maybe it will quicken up. I understand that [watering] is what they have to do to keep things safe, but it is a killer [for me].”

The big race of the day was the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, and the United States was represented by Keeneland Grade 1 winner Rosalind. Many eyes were on the filly before the race as both European and American viewers were eager to see how she performed in the race. However, there was little time to enjoy her presence in the race as she stumbled leaving the gate and lost her jockey, Kieren Fallon.

Rosalind continued on and galloped behind the field without Fallon. Trainer Kenny McPeek tweeted an update on the filly after the race. She appeared to come out of the race fairly well.

“Rosalind has minor cuts,” McPeek tweeted. “Grabbed left front quarter. Otherwise minor. Hope Kieren is alright, too. Heard he was off mounts. Bad luck. Head up.”

Fallon suffered a stiff neck but otherwise was fine.

Rizeena won the Coronation under Ryan Moore for trainer Clive Brittain.


Courtesy of Racing UK

Saturday, June 21

The final race with United States participation was the first race of the day on Saturday. Wesley Ward sent out two horses in the Chesham Stakes, including highly touted but unraced Cordero.

Ward’s other runner, Crown the Kitten, broke quickly out of the gate and took the lead with Cordero close behind him. It was easy to spot Crown the Kitten’s blinkers with the familiar Ken and Sarah Ramsey red with a white ‘R’ on them.

About halfway through the 7-furlong race, both horses dropped back as the field accelerated. After being squeezed when trying to get back to the lead, Crown the Kitten’s shot at victory was gone and he finished 10th. Cordero rallied late but could manage only to improve to sixth to end Wesley Ward’s meet. 

The United States did have a high note on Saturday, however, with the second-place runner in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Due Diligence.

Trained by Todd Pletcher last year as a 2-year-old, he broke his maiden at Saratoga Race Course. Since transferred to Aidain O’Brien, Due Diligence finished second to Slade Power in the marquee event of the last day of the meet. The War Front colt will aim next for the July Cup, a race Ward also is targeting for American sprinter Undrafted. 


Courtesy of Racing UK

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