Ward plotting Royal Ascot raid but wary he may be unable to unleash juveniles
The coronavirus pandemic has not deterred Wesley Ward's plans to send his top sprinters to Royal Ascot, although the leading American trainer fears the meeting may not have two-year-old races this year.
Since 2009, Ward has had ten winners at the meeting with seven of those at juvenile level. This year his hand could be stronger than ever with a runner for each of the three Group 1 sprint races, led by the unbeaten Breeders' Cup winner Four Wheel Drive.
However, Ward's excitement comes as bookmakers Coral made Royal Ascot a 4-11 shot to not start on its planned date of June 16. The move followed a government ruling on Monday that no sport in Britain can be staged until June 1, and the royal meeting may come too soon after resumption.
Ascot could not confirm any details when contacted by the Racing Post on Tuesday, but on Wednesday the resumption of racing group is due to meet via video conference. The royal meeting will likely be a key point on the agenda.
Meanwhile, Ward is keenly awaiting confirmation but has a plan in place if the meeting is given confirmation to take place.
He said: "I'm very optimistic and Ascot is at the forefront of what we want to do, each and every year. I have been in touch with the shipping companies and we're just monitoring the dates and waiting for when things can happen. I'm waiting for the green light for when the horses can travel. We're in place and ready to go.
"We're just waiting on what will happen with Ascot, I have horses who I want to send. I had some English staff that came over to work in the winter but they went home due to their visas. They're sitting at home now but if I do send horses over then I'll have helpers over in England, so I just need to send the horses over. We can communicate over FaceTime and we would manage it without physically being there."
Ward's speedy two-year-olds have become a force to be reckoned with at Royal Ascot with the likes of Lady Aurelia, No Nay Never and Acapulco among the standouts. But the trainer fears the six juvenile races may be wiped from the Royal meeting this year, with not enough races between the resumption date and Ascot to trial the horses.
He added: "I know racing will start June 1 but does that mean they'll have Ascot on the same date or realign it for a different day? I don't know. You don't know if they'll have two-year-old races either.
"Everyone I've spoken to at Ascot is unsure and having few two-year-old races makes you scratch your head about how it will work. It'd just be a bunch of maidens in the race, I'm not sure how it would all work out."
Kimari 'absolutely right' with Commonwealth Cup on the agenda
Hugely exciting sprinter Four Wheel Drive is to be given a trial on Sunday ahead of a potential Royal Ascot tilt – with Ward eyeing the King's Stand Stakes for the three-year-old.
The son of American Pharoah will make his return at Churchill Downs, a first start since his Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint win. A good run could seal his place at the royal meeting.
"Four Wheel Drive is going to run on Sunday and that'll be his first start of the year at Churchill Downs," said Ward, who won the King's Stand with Lady Aurelia in 2017. "It's a five-and-a-half furlongs allowance race on the turf which is a good start for him. Whether we go to Ascot is a discussion we'll have with his owners on Sunday."
Ward is especially sweet on Kimari, who is being aimed at the Commonwealth Cup. She was beaten a head in the Queen Mary last time but is fancied to go one better.
He added: "I like Kimari and she should be going, she was second to Frankie [Dettori, on Raffle Prize] in the Queen Mary last season.
"She ran a great race on the dirt the last day but is fine on the grass or even softer and we know she loves the course. She's going to be absolutely right and we're fully ready for her to go. We're really looking forward to her.
"We'll also have Bound For Nowhere [in the Diamond Jubilee]. He ran in March at Santa Anita and he was just beaten on the line. He's training some kind of good right now so he could go.
"Those three older horses are ones we're looking to go with and a few two-year-olds too, we'll see how the meeting comes."
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