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Royal Ascot Ultimate Guide - 2019-06-06

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‘I wanted to get him back all guns blazing for Royal Ascot’

THE INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE

James Burn

WESLEY WARD is a good place to start with any focus on Royal Ascot and it is no wonder given only Aidan O’brien, John Gosden, Sir Michael Stoute and Mark Johnston have had more winners at the meeting in the last five years than the US trainer, who adores Berkshire in June. Ward has won ten races during Flat racing’s most fashionable week and has assembled a quality raiding party this year. It is headed by Bound For Nowhere, fourth in the 2017 Commonwealth Cup and third in last year’s Diamond Jubilee. “He’s doing tremendously,” said Ward. “He had a workout at Keeneland recently and it was a beautiful sight. “I wanted to get him back all guns blazing for Royal Ascot – ready for a shooting match.” Bound For Nowhere, the mount of Preakness-winning rider Tyler Gaffalione, is in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee. “That, I’ve got to decide,” Ward added. “His last race put some speed on his mind. We could do both, but won’t. “He’s going to bring his A-plus game. Some of my other horses who are entered aren’t up to this level, but he is.” Seven of the 51-year-old’s Royal Ascot winners have been two-year-olds and his juvenile fillies promise plenty. “Nayibeth won at Keeneland and got incredible numbers, and her work since has been unbelievable,” continued the trainer. “She’s a half-sister to Soldat, who was second in a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, so she has the pedigree for grass and is going to go for the Albany. “We’ll have two for the Queen Mary in Lady Pauline and Kimari, who won by 15 lengths at Keeneland and is a beautiful filly with an affinity for turf as well. “We had high expectations of Lady Pauline at Ascot last time and if she was a normal horse you’d be happy with that prep, but with her being a half-sister to Lady Aurelia it’s different. “One reason for her being beaten was she only had a few days before she landed and ran, and that’s a lot to ask of a juvenile, while the track was narrow with photographers on both sides. John Velazquez said he couldn’t get her to run on and finish because she was looking around. That’s kind of a jockey excuse, but she was entitled to be green. “She’s worked beautifully since at Manton with Brian Meehan’s horses and I think she’ll step up – she’s much better than we saw at Ascot.” Ward is putting the finishing touches to his team of young colts, but insists any challengers must be respected. He said: “I want to bring sincere quality. It’s a big let-down for the owners if you go with high expectations and don’t get the job done. “Everything I bring, I think can win. Whether they do or not, who knows as it’s Royal Ascot.” Ward’s great pal Joe Orseno (pictured) is looking forward to a maiden trip, buoyed by the fact Imprimis, who runs in the King’s Stand under Frankie Dettori, beat Bound For Nowhere last time. “We ran down Wesley’s horse, who is very nice,” said the Floridabased trainer, whose five-year-old will be based alongside Ward’s string at Manton. “The owners wanted to come, but I didn’t take it too seriously until he won that race. I know I have a nice horse and one who can be right there in the Breeders’ Cup in November, but I wasn’t sure about Ascot – I am now. “I wouldn’t have had a problem with six furlongs in the Diamond Jubilee but feel five would be better for him with the stiff finish, plus I can get Frankie in this and he’s the man, right? “The horse is legit and deserves a shot, and I’ve got him pretty wound up and ready.” Orseno, who has been training for 42 years, won the Preakness Stakes in 2000 with Red Bullet and has landed two Breeders’ Cup races. “It’s really exciting to be coming and everyone has told me I’m goingto love the experience,” he added. “All the planning and paperwork I’m not really keen on, but if Wesley can do it, I can do it!” A JAPANESE runner has never won a race at Royal Ascot and Masakazu Takahashi, a racing journalist in the country, does not think Deirdre is capable of becoming the first in the Prince of Wales’s. A top-level winner over 1m2f, the daughter of stunning 2010 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes hero Harbinger has been based in Newmarket since finishing sixth in the QEII Cup at Sha Tin in April. “She has been good at fast tracks like Tokyo and in Hong Kong, but I can’t imagine she has enough stamina to fight out the finish with the strong European horses at Ascot,” said Takahashi. Like Japan, New Zealand has yet to strike at Royal Ascot and Enzo’s Lad, a Group 1 winner at home who was last of nine in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in April. His trainer Michael Pitman, a three-time champion trainer domestically with nearly 40 years and more than 1,800 winners to his name, said: “I saw him recently at Jane Chapple-hyam’s yard and he looked really good. “He’s got to have a firm track and should be at his best if he gets it. He never got it in Hong Kong, but has run some very fast times at home.” Pitman, who has suffered from cancer in the last year, plans to use a local rider for Enzo’s Lad, who is booked in for the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee. “This is massive,” he added. “I’ve been struggling with cancer and in October had a seven-hour operation, but you’ve got to be in good spirits – not many people get to win 1,800 races in their lifetime.” The King’s Stand has been won by Australia four times and interest this time around comes in the form of the Toby Edmonds-trained Houtzen, whose biggest success came in the 2017 Magic Millions 2YO Classic at Gold Coast racecourse in Queensland. She has been stabled in Newmarket since arriving in Britain, catching the eye on the gallops and when getting used to Ascot during an away day at the track under Oisin Murphy. Edmonds, who has engaged Kerrin Mcevoy for the ride, said: “I was really happy when I saw her and she was in good order. I thought it was vital she went to Ascot and am grateful they let us. She’s had a look at the place and I thought she went well. “We’d expect her to run well, like most of the Australian sprinters who have come over. Whether it’s a prestige year or not, I’m not sure, but she’s very sharp and fast, and tough when she’s right.” Lim’s Cruiser, a respectable second at Kranji at the start of May, could make the trip from Singapore and his trainer Stephen Gray, whose Emperor Max was not disgraced behind Muhaarar in the 2015 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, seems keen on participating in the Diamond Jubilee. “He ran well but didn’t win,” he said of that recent reverse. “We’re deflated, but he’s pulled up really well, better than his first start of the year because he’s a lot fitter. “I’m not sure what we’ll do, but the biggest reason to come is there’s not a lot here for him and he’s probably paid to go. It won’t hurt him if it doesn’t work. “If he’d won by half a neck, instead of being beaten by one, we’d be going and in this industry – if they’re well – you can’t wonder. “If we get rain on the day he could run really well and that’s what’s tempting me.”

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