Bloodlines of hope and glory as Ward readies latest raiding party
Martin Stevens runs the rule over the Royal meeting's US-trained runners
The thoroughbred version of Air Force One is set to depart for Stansted Airport on Tuesday, its precious cargo around eight horses trained by Wesley Ward who are bound for the National Stud in Newmarket to acclimatise before their various assignments at Royal Ascot.
The passengers, who will have to have earned their place on the plane with sufficiently impressive work in America on Monday, will be aiming to give Ward further success at the royal meeting, a run that stretches back to his groundbreaking victories with Jealous Again and Strike The Tiger in 2009.
The VIP on board will be Lady Aurelia, an astonishingly easy winner of the Queen Mary Stakes last year who landed the Listed Giant's Causeway Stakes on home turf in April and is ante-post favourite to deal her older competition a beating in the King's Stand Stakes.
Lady Aurelia is one of three Ward-trained Royal Ascot winners by Scat Daddy, along with Acapulco – now with Aidan O'Brien and pregnant to Galileo with the King's Stand Stakes on her agenda too – and No Nay Never, who has served his third book of mares at Coolmore this year.
It is arguably the Keeneland-based trainer's achievements with the son of Johannesburg that renewed Coolmore's interest in their sire, leading them to campaign their own brilliant Royal Ascot two-year-old by him – Coventry Stakes winner Caravaggio, who looks to have the Commonwealth Cup at his feet judging by his easy Group 3 win at Naas last month – and to purchase his $3 million Keeneland September sale-topper last year.
Ward's consignment to Royal Ascot could contain two more Scat Daddy offspring including Sandringham Handicap hopeful Con Te Partiro, whose dam Temple Street was Grade 1-placed over seven furlongs.
The other Scat Daddy in Ward's squad is Fairyland, a clear-cut winner at Keeneland in April who could be another Amazon in the image of Acapulco and Lady Aurelia. The $375,000 yearling purchase by Coolmore is, like No Nay Never, out of a mare by Elusive Quality but, as her target of the Albany Stakes suggests, she might have a little more stamina than that speedball as she is out of a half-sister to the distinguished Japanese mile to ten-furlong performer Agnes Digital.
Fairyland will be Ward's second-last chance of a Royal Ascot two-year-old winner by Scat Daddy as the stallion died at the end of 2015 in a twist of fate that must have turned Coolmore's accountants ashen-faced, as his fee for the 2016 covering season had been raised to $100,000 from $35,000.Trippi and Tiger Ridge – had been sold to stand in South Africa.
Progeny of sires that unconventional are probably less likely to find their way into Ward's string any more, although this year's consignment to Royal Ascot does include McErin, a son of dirt horse and $7,500 stallion Trappe Shot, who is set for the Norfolk Stakes after winning a Keeneland maiden by a street in April and finishing a close third at Churchill Downs last month.
Distorted Humor is about as conventional as Kentucky stallions are in Europe nowadays. He has a Royal Ascot-winning two-year-old on his record in Cursory Glance as well as Baffled, Shumoos and Wind Fire, all placed in juvenile contests at the royal meeting for British trainers.
If Happy Like A Fool, a filly bred by Ward and owned by Merriebelle Stable, lives up to the promise of her victory in a Keeneland maiden in April, she could easily enhance the sire's record in the Queen Mary Stakes.
Another elite sire, but one much younger, who could be represented by a Ward runner at Royal Ascot is Uncle Mo, the sire of Coolmore-owned Coventry Stakes prospect Arawak, a seven-length winner of a Belmont Park maiden last month that had been taken off the turf. Ominously, Ward thinks the colt will be better on grass.
Uncle Mo has got off to a flying start as a stallion, with three Grade 1 winners including champion juvenile and Kentucky Derby hero Nyquist in his first crop leading to a sixfold fee increase between 2015 and 2017 to $150,000. The grandson of Irish-bred In Excess has had barely any exposure in Europe as yet, so it will be fascinating to see if Arawak opens the floodgates to more.Bound For Nowhere, who has won both of his starts by a wide margin and is set to take on Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup, is from the first crop of The Factor, a son of War Front – the basket in which Coolmore has placed so many of its eggs.
Defeat for Caravaggio would be a bitter blow for the operation but they might find solace if it came at the hands of a horse whose sire-line they have spent so much resource attempting to propagate in Europe.
Further intrigue could be added by the identity of the last Ward runner to secure their ticket to Britain – either Elizabeth Darcy or Nootka Sound, one of whom will contest the Windsor Castle Stakes; whichever filly impressed most in a piece of work that was slated for Monday.
Elizabeth Darcy is by Yeomanstown Stud sire Camacho and was bred by Manister House Stud out of the placed Pivotal mare Regency Girl, a 6,000gns purchase by the operation. Gatewood Bell paid €88,000 for the filly, bred 2x3 to Danehill, at Goffs last year.
Will it be the more cheaply bred horses who strike for Ward or those by his old ally Scat Daddy? That one plane due to land at Stansted contains so many exciting horses and enthralling pedigree angles. Happy landings.
WESLEY WARD'S PREVIOUS WINNERS AT ROYAL ASCOT
HORSE (Race-class, Sire - Dam - Damsire)
STRIKE THE TIGER (2009 Windsor Castle Stakes-L, Tiger Ridge - Lucky Strike - In Excess)
JEALOUS AGAIN (2009 Queen Mary Stakes-G2, Trippi - Chi Sa - Bold Ruckus)
NO NAY NEVER (2013 Norfolk Stakes-G2, Scat Daddy - Cat's Eye Witness - Elusive Quality)
HOOTENANNY (2014 Windsor Castle Stakes-L, Quality Road - More Hennessy - Hennessy)
ACAPULCO (2015 Queen Mary Stakes-G2, Scat Daddy - Global Finance - End Sweep)
UNDRAFTED (2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes-G1, Purim - French Jeannette - French Deputy)
LADY AURELIA (2016 Queen Mary Stakes-G2, Scat Daddy D'Wildcat Speed Forest Wildcat)