By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: Wesley Ward has issued a warning ahead of Friday’s card at Royal Ascot that soft ground could scupper the chances of his well-fancied two-year-olds.
The US trainer, who has saddled ten previous winners at the royal meeting, is set to be represented by juveniles Flying Aletha in the Albany Stakes and Golden Pal in the Norfolk.
He also has the three-year-old Kimari, runner-up in last year’s Queen Mary, in the Commonwealth Cup.
With Frankie Dettori aboard the favourite Eye Of Heaven, Ward has booked Andrea Atzeni to ride Golden Pal in the G2 Norfolk. “I would have thought that he would be my best chance to win a race all week,” said the trainer, speaking on Paddy Power media’s new podcast, From the Horse’s Mouth.
“He’s twice the horse on the turf as he is the dirt,” he went on. “He’s just got lightning quick turn of foot, speed, he’s got a beautiful mind. He just floats over the ground, but it’s a big question mark now with the soft ground.”
Sheriff Bianco and Sunshine City, the Ward runners could finish only eighth and ninth on good ground in Wednesday’s Windsor Castle – and it has rained heavily since then, with soft ground for Thursday’s card.
He said: “Unfortunately yesterday [on Wednesday] even though it was good ground, it took my advantage away – where it’s good, quick fast where they can sustain their speed – and my horses just didn’t grab a hold of it yesterday and just didn’t fire.
As such, the ground is also a major worry for the filly Flying Aletha (William Buick) in the G3 Albany. “Unfortunately it’s just a little bit of an unknown,” said Ward.
“She’s a bigger filly, kind of a lankier filly, not a really heavy type filly. She should be able to get over it but you never know until you get to the gates and midway down the race is when you figure out if they like it or not. It’s a big question mark.”
On the other hand, Ward remains hopeful about the chances of Campanelle (Frankie Dettori) in Saturday’s Queen Mary, a race he has won three times in the past. Royal Approval (Silvestre de Sousa), whom she beat at Gulfstream, also runs here.
“There’s not a lot between them at home but Campanelle is a European-bred filly who should take to a soft turf,” said Ward.
“The other filly is a big, heavy robust type so I don’t know if she’ll get through where they’re having to stick their toe really in that ground like that.
“She’d want to kind of get it to where it’s hard and firm so we’ll see how the conditions are on Saturday, but more likely than not the other filly will get over it better than she will.”
Ward also hopes Kimari (Dettori) will handle likely underfoot conditions for her G1 assignment in the Commonwealth Cup. “She’s one that we at least know likes it and the others are unknown,” said Ward.
“I would think it’s a little bit of an advantage for her ironically where you wouldn’t say so for my horses or for an American horse.
“She won on her only start this year – we had a deluge of rain in Arkansas – we shipped her to Arkansas and it was rainy conditions all week and that was a little bit of an unknown as well and she just took right through it. So I wouldn’t think that that’s going to be a disadvantage to me.”
• Find out more about the meeting at the Royal Ascot website