By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Royal Ascot may be shrouded in uncertainty owing to coronavirus but Wesley Ward is still aiming for a return with star sprinter Kimari, who returned to action with victory on dirt at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.
After last year’s Queen Mary Stakes runner-up had beaten a strong-looking field in a Listed race over 6f on a sloppy dirt surface, Royal Ascot’s adopted American son said he was aiming for the Commonwealth Cup with the three-year-old filly.
According to the Daily Racing Form, the trainer had been intending to run Kimari at Keeneland as an Ascot prep before that meeting was cancelled owing to coronavirus. “We’ll see what happens with Ascot,” said Ward, who has saddled ten winners at the royal meeting.
Ridden by Channing Hill, Kimari came from off the pace to run down the favourite Frank’s Rockette in Saturday’s $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes at Oaklawn. She won going away by a length and three-quarters.
“I was really, really super confident going into this race,” said Ward. “I’m kind of a positive guy, anyways, but after seeing those two works (in March at Gulfstream Park West), I knew it would take a really, really tough filly to beat her.”
Kimari’s only previous victory on dirt came with a 15-length romp on her Keeneland debut last April before she lost out narrowly to Raffle Prize at Royal Ascot.
Taking her career record to four out of six, Kimari was returning to action on Aturday for the irst time since coming fourth behind stablemate Four Wheel Drive – also earmarked for Royal Ascot – in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
“Take nothing away from the others in there, but I was really confident,” Ward added. “The owner (David Mowat’s Ten Broeck Farm) and Ben McElroy, who bought her and manages her, they were a little apprehensive when we drew the one hole because she always gets away just a little slow.
“I kind of laid it all out there and assured them, ‘Don’t worry about anything.’ I was a little nervous that I might have stuck my foot in my mouth, but thank God I didn’t.”
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