Stable Tour: Wesley Ward

Trailblazing U.S trainer Wesley Ward is a six-time Royal Ascot winner and sends a team of seven to Berkshire this year which features 2015 scorers Acapulco and Undrafted, plus five exciting juveniles including Queen Mary Stakes hot favourite Lady Aurelia.

Wesley Ward
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Wesley Ward Stable Tour

Wesley Ward became the first U.S-based trainer to saddle a winner at the prestigious Royal meeting when he scored a double in 2009.

He has gone on to win a further four races in the last three years, including a brace in 2015 courtesy of Acapulco and Undrafted, who are both back for more glory this year.  

Ward, 48, a former champion apprentice rider in the U.S, returns to Royal Ascot with seven scheduled runners in 2016.

He initially had a team of eight, but revealed on Friday he would not run Star Empire in the Coventry Stakes as originally planned.

Here, Wesley Ward talks exclusively to attheraces.com about his Royal Ascot runners.

SILVERTONI (Coventry Stakes

A two-year-old daughter of the hot North American sire Tapit, Silvertoni is two wins from two stars including a victory against the boys in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

Ward has entered her in both the Group 2 Coventry Stakes and the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes, but said he is leaning toward the Coventry over six furlongs.

“She had a really, really good breeze at Robert Sangster’s place so after that work I may go against the colts in the Coventry,” Ward said. “She’s a really smart filly, a big filly with a long stride who may want to go on a lot further than this. I think she’s going to be really competitive.”

ACAPULCO (King’s Stand Stakes)

Won the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes last year as a maiden in her second career start and brings a two-from-two record this year into the King’s Stand, which, like the Queen Mary, is over five furlongs.

Acapulco was also being considered for the Commonwealth Cup on Friday, but Acapulco’s owners - Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith - have another horse they want to run in that spot.

“Five-eighths is her game, she just won a nice race at Churchill,” Ward said. “We were favorite in either race but we would have been a much bigger favorite in the Commonwealth.

Acapulco won an allowance race over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park in February before defeating older fillies and mares by three-and-a-half lengths in the Unbridled Sidney Stakes going five furlongs over the turf at Churchill on May 14.

BIG CITY DREAMIN (Windsor Castle Stakes)

Daughter of Iqbaal won the first race for two-year-olds at Keeneland on April 8, defeating males by one-and-a quarter lengths over four-and-a-half furlongs on dirt.

Though she won on dirt, Ward said Big City Dreamin “Was always meant to be a grass filly. She got ready early, we went ahead and ran her and she had a nice win. I’m excited about her, she’s going to hopefully have a good showing.”

She breezed twice on the turf at Arlington Park near Chicago before shipping.

LADY AURELIA (Queen Mary Stakes)

Of his eight runners, Ward believes this is his best chance to win a race at this year’s Royal Ascot.

A daughter of Scat Daddy owned by George Bolton as well as the breeders, Stonestreet Stables, this filly won her debut at Keeneland by seven-and-a-half lengths in a four-and-a-half furlong dirt contest. But when Ward took her to Arlington Park and breezed her on the turf, his jaw dropped.

“She had great works, she didn’t have good works, like one of the best horses I ever trained,” Ward said. “She broke behind a couple of very, very nice fillies and it just seemed like she breathed different air. She’s going into that race super and I got a lot of confidence in her.”

RED LODGE (Norfolk Stakes)

After getting beat over four-and-a-half furlongs on the dirt at Keeneland, she came back with a three-and-three-quarter length victory over five furlongs on the turf at Belmont Park on May 27 where she set a course record of 55.73 seconds for the distance.

Despite running that fast, Red Lodge won while being taken in hand by jockey John Velazquez. “I told Johnny V going into that race that I would like to come back on short rest.”

Comparing her affinity for turf as opposed to dirt, Ward said, “all in all she has been much, much, much better on the grass in her works at Palm Meadows - ten lengths better on the grass.”

CREATE A DREAM (Albany Stakes)

Ward said when he received this filly early in the year she had “a complete European physique to her” and that when he breezed her on the turf she was “far and away the best two-year-old I had at that early stage.”

Ward received permission from owner Vinnie Viola to send her to Ascot for a Conditions race on April 27 which she narrowly won.

“She ran in a two-year-old stakes against winners and she won it, it was really something,” Ward said. “I’m really, really excited about the filly. She came out of the race good, she’s been training where all the horses are now since March. (Frankie) Dettori breezed her and loved her.”

Create A Dream is by Oasis Dream out of the dam Anabaa’s Creation, who came within a head of upsetting the mighty U.S. champion Zenyatta in the Clement L. Hirsch on Del Mar’s synthetic surface.

UNDRAFTED (Diamond Jubilee Stakes)

Won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last year after finishing second in the Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. This year, the six-year-old gelding by Purim enters off a win in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland in late April.

“It was a very, very big effort,” Ward said. “The winter wasn’t as bad as prior years and we were able to get quite a few works into him at Turfway and he was dead ready to go. Joe Bravo gave him a beautiful ride and he came with a big finish and he won.”

After deciding to forego another run in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint, Ward shipped this gelding over early and got a couple of breezes into him.