Ward's Royal Ascot love affair continues from across Atlantic

Yahoo Sport UK
Wesley Ward has proved the number one American trainer at Royal Ascot with 11 winners and counting in recent years.
Wesley Ward has proved the number one American trainer at Royal Ascot with 11 winners and counting in recent years.

For a man who admits he likes to work in his favourite tatty jeans, an old t-shirt and a baseball cap, Wesley Ward rather suits a top hat and tails, writes James Toney

American trainer Ward talks about Royal Ascot with such love and wide-eyed respect you half expect him to break into a verse from Jerusalem and check his phone for the latest cricket score.

It’s 11 years since he became the first American trainer to score a winner at the royal meeting and since then he has added nine more successes to his tally.

Last year he drew a blank for the first time since 2012, this week he'll be watching across the Atlantic in over a leisurely breakfast, hoping for a change in luck.

Seasoned Ascot observers have become used to seeing Ward unleash his best two-year olds - such as the blistering Lady Aurelia in 2016 - at Keeneland's spring meeting, with one eye firmly on entries in June.

However, when that was cancelled, he shifted his best hopes to Miami's Gulfstream Park, where he runs a second operation.

Frankie Dettori is likely to take the ride on Ward's best two hopes this week, Golden Pal and Sunshine City.

They race in Friday's Norfolk Stakes - a race he has won twice previously - and Saturday's Windsor Castle Stakes respectively.

"When it comes to Royal Ascot there is none better than Frankie," said Ward. "He just loves it, he's almost as much a part of the meeting as the Queen, indeed with the Queen not there this year, he's the royalty on show.

"He got the better of us in a big race last year, so I'm just happy to have him on our team again.

"It'll certainly be surreal watching at home and my kids are going to really miss it, it's become our annual holiday and it's a real special time for us.

“It’s just the best racecourse in the world, with the best horses racing in the best setting. It’s the focal point of my year and I always wanted to be represented, even if I couldn't go in person.

“I love the place, though I’d like to see more American horses coming over and hopefully more will next year.

“The pageantry can feel a bit overwhelming, so it'll be strange to watch without that. I was star struck when I first ran a horse here in 2009 and we won two races in two days. That moment I knew I’d keep wanting to come back year after year."

Ward has shipped his Ascot hopefuls to Newmarket's National Stud, where two European members of staff are looking after the horses, with a little help from Kieren Fallon, Royal Ascot's top jockey 20 years ago, and Dettori, who partnered the brilliant Lady Aurelia in both her triumphs at the meeting.

"It's a smaller team than in the years of the past but I think it is high on quality," adds Ward, who will also have high hopes for Kimari, second by a fraction in last year's Queen Mary Stakes and an entry for the £250,000 Commonwealth Cup.

"Ascot has given me some of my greatest racing memories and while this year is different, it's still Royal Ascot and it's a massive week for us."

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