Legendary team-up: Steve Cauthen and Wesley Ward combine for Saratoga score

Horse Racing Steve Cauthen
Steve Cauthen: riding legend teamed up for Saratoga winner with Wesley Ward.
Photo: Keeneland/Coady Photography

By NYRA press office/Paulick Report

USA: Few US racing folk are better known in Britain than Steve Cauthen and Wesley Ward – but this week this exalted pair teamed up for success closer to home on the opening day at Saratoga’s summer meet.

Winning any race at American racing’s most prestigious venue is highly rewarding for Ward, Royal Ascot’s favourite adopted son. But a victory from Palace Avenger in a 6f allowance contest on Thursday’s card held extra sentimental value for the trainer as he was winning on behalf of riding legend Cauthen, co-owner and longtime friend.

Ward was a jockey for five years before transitioning to training in 1989. He grew up idolising Cauthen, who piloted Affirmed to victory in the 1978 Triple Crown at the age of 18 before moving to Britain, where he was to become a hugely popular figure – and revolutionised European race-riding in the process.

“He was my idol,” Ward said after saddling Palace Avenger to a half-length victory under Jose Ortiz. 

“It’s always nice to win for a guy like Steve,” he added. “He’s really a class act. Just a guy you really want to win for because he’s such a great person.”

Owned by Cauthen’s Dreamfields in partnership with Don Brady, Mark O. Board and John Gaynor, three-year-old filly Palace Avenger was recording a second career win, arriving at the event off a runner-up finish at Churchill Downs at 29-1.

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Ward began riding in 1984, just five years after Cauthen moved his tack to Britain, where he would go on to become a three-time champion jockey. During their careers as riders, both Cauthen and Ward were represented by agent Lenny Goodman.

Campaigning thoroughbreds together is something that both Cauthen and Ward had always talked about doing.

Horse Racing Wesley Ward trainer
Wesley Ward: “It’s always nice to win for a guy like Steve.” Photo: Coady Photography/Keeneland

“I always watched him from afar,” Cauthen said. “After I retired, I would see him at the sales and the track. We’d always stop and chat with each other and we would say ‘We’ve got to get together’ and we finally did.”

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While Cauthen made his mark as a champion jockey in Britain, Ward is well known for his exploits as a trainer across the Atlantic with the likes of champion filly Lady Aurelia and Campanelle, the most recent of his 11 career winners at Royal Ascot in last month’s Queen Mary Stakes.

“I’d say his job was harder,” Cauthen said. “It’s a lot to take on going over there with a horse that’s never run over a course like the ones in Europe, and he’s figured it out. Not just at Royal Ascot, but in France and all over the place.”

Cauthen has some familiarity with the family of Palace Avenger, having piloted the daughter of Palace’s granddam Chimes Of Freedom to victory for his longtime sparring partner Henry Cecil in the Moyglare Stud Stakes in 1989 and the Coronation Stakes a year later.

“It’s a good family,” Cauthen said. “Chimes Of Freedom was a chestnut with a white blaze so her and Palace Avenger are similar in that regard. They’re about the same size, about 16 hands. The biggest similarity between the two is that they both try. That’s the part you can’t see when you buy them.”

A start against stakes company could be on the horizon at some point for Palace Avenger.

“I think that’s what we’re on the lookout for somewhere,” Cauthen added. “We’ve talked about it a little bit.”

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