By Jon Lees
Wesley Ward has dispatched the deepest squad of two-year-olds he has ever sent to Royal Ascot as seven juveniles accompanied older sprinter Bound For Nowhere on a flight from the United States.
The youngsters will join stablemate Lady Pauline, already at their temporary base in Manton, to prepare for the meeting – where they will try to add to Ward’s remarkable tally of 10 winners in as many years since he recorded his ground-breaking 2009 double with Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again.
Such is the American trainer’s strength in numbers he is likely to be doubly represented in some races, and will split the mounts between John Velazquez and Tyler Gaffalione – the rider of last month’s Preakness Stakes winner War Of Will, who will be making his British debut.
“I think this is the strongest group as a whole,” said Ward.
“The old horse is going to be tough – and with the one colt and all the fillies, it is going to be a really, really good team.”
Ward is sending Bound For Nowhere on a return mission in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, in which he took third a year ago. He was second to another US runner Imprimis in his Keeneland warm-up.
“He has some beautiful breezes here at Keeneland, where he had a really nice race, is dead sound and has no issues,” said Ward.
“He will be coming over with that race underneath him and a string of quick drills in the morning. He should be ready to run the race of his life this year.”
The two-year-olds have already posted impressive efforts in the US, and one carrying highest hopes will be Nayibeth.
“I really, really like her,” said Ward.
“She won with speed to spare here at Keeneland. She was my most impressive two-year-old winner, because she won against the bridle. She will run in the Albany.”
Listing his other challengers, he added: “Karak, a Karakontie filly. is very nice as well. She will probably be in the Queen Mary or the Norfolk. The owners won the Norfolk last year with Shang Shang Shang.
“Chili Petin was a really nice winner and bred for the grass. I will be looking to put her in the Windsor Castle or maybe against the colts in the Norfolk. She had a huge work lately.
“Foolish Humor had a convincing win on the turf at Belmont and she is going to go in the Windsor Castle. Maven, an American Pharoah colt, won the first two-year-old race of the year in New York and was given an 84 Beyer figure – which is very high. We are going to shoot for the Norfolk with him.
“Kimari will go in the Queen Mary. Anna’s Fast may go in the Albany, but the owners have Karak as well, so they will be in two different races.”
Lady Pauline, half-sister to Ward’s Queen Mary and King’s Stand Stakes winner Lady Aurelia, suffered a surprise defeat at Ascot last month – but her jockey Velazquez reported she did no cope with the narrowed straight that day.
“She has had a couple of big works,” said Ward.
“Brian Meehan has been very accommodating, so we worked her with the two-year-olds the week before last and she kind of ran away from whatever he put her with.
“We asked him to put her with an older horse, and he put her with Bacchus – who won the Wokingham last year – and she worked heads up with him, which says a lot.”
Lady Pauline will join Kimari in the Queen Mary.
“She has had a good time to recover from her defeat and she can hopefully step it up,” said Ward.
“There were a couple of circumstances last time. First of all, she landed and ran. She travelled from Kentucky down to Alabama, then flew in, had two days on the grounds until her race. It was all new for a young two-year-old.
“There was a little bit of a jockey excuse with the feedback,” he added.
“Johnny Velazquez said the rails were very narrow that day, compared to when he’s ridden there in the past. He said there was a lot of media on both sides.
“When he asked her to go, he felt her head come up and she was looking at something. The closer she got to the finish, with people on both sides, she was a little apprehensive. She just didn’t level off and run.
“He has had the choice to ride Kimari, who was a resounding winner here and won by 15 lengths, or Lady Pauline – and he chose Lady Pauline. That says a lot.”