Ward hopeful of early strike on latest Ascot raid

American trainer always to be feared with his Royal meeting runners

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Wesley Ward fires a formidable twin assault as he bids for a fourth victory in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.

It is 10 years since the popular American first landed the Group Two prize with Jealous Again and he has since added to his tally with Acapulco (2015) and Lady Aurelia (2016).

This season Ward is represented by a 15-length debut winner in Kimari and the only slightly similarly impressive Anna’s Fast – and is hopeful both will make their presence felt.

He said: “It’s tough to split them, for sure.

“I think maybe Anna’s Fast might have the fitness edge. Kimari was more impressive on her debut (won by 15 lengths), but she was hard ridden, whereas Anna’s Fast was an eased-up winner.

“I think both fillies are very talented and if I had to call it I’d probably just go for Anna’s Fast on fitness.”

A huge field of 28 runners are set to go to post for the first race on day two, with Saeed bin Suroor’s course and distance winner Final Song the marginal favourite ahead of the the American pair.

The Irish challenge includes Willie McCreery’s Ickworth, who followed up an introductory win at Dundalk with an impressive Listed triumph at the Curragh.

“Ickworth is in good form. The more the ground dries the better, but there is to be rain on Tuesday night,” said McCreery.

“I’m looking forward to it if we get good (ground) underfoot.”

Ward also has two runners in the concluding Windsor Castle Stakes, a race in which he broke his Royal Ascot duck a decade ago with 33-1 shot Strike The Tiger and has since won again with Hootenanny (2014).

He added: “Foolish Humor probably has the fitness advantage, but I think Karak is probably the better horse.

“All the work is done and now it’s up the horses. We’re excited.”

Ed Walker is looking forward to seeing Agrotera bid for her second Royal Ascot success in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

The daughter of Mastercraftsman provided her trainer with his first winner at the showpiece meeting when justifying favouritism in the Sandringham Stakes 12 months ago – and warmed up for her return with a Listed win at Kempton in April.

“This has race has been the plan since Kempton and we’re very happy with her going into the race,” said Walker.

“We’re really looking forward to going back to the same course and distance she won over last year. The ground might not be as fast as it was last season, but I don’t think that’s a major concern.

“She’s a filly I can see getting a mile and a quarter at some stage and I don’t think a bit of cut in the ground will bother her too much.”

The Lambourn-based trainer also saddles big outsider Indian Blessing, and warns she should not be dismissed.

He added: “She’s not with a chance. She was disappointing in Ireland on her first run of the year, but she won very convincingly at Musselburgh last time.

“She’s Grade One-placed in the States and she’ll love any rain that falls. I can see her running a big race.”

Other contenders include Sir Michael Stoute’s pair of Rawdaa and Veracious, Aidan O’Brien’s I Can Fly and the William Haggas-trained Pretty Baby.

Haggas said of the latter: “She just keeps on winning. I’ve been keen to get her up to a mile and we will ride her a bit differently to help her get it.”

O’Brien has dominated the Queen’s Vase in recent years – saddling six winners in total including four of the last six.

This time around the Ballydoyle handler runs four of the 13 runners in Western Australia, Norway, Barbados and Harpo Max.

Of the former, O’Brien told attheraces.com: “We were delighted with his win at Navan last time. He always looked like a horse that would stay well and he confirmed that at Navan.

“Going a bit further at Ascot will be a help to him and there should be more improvement in him.”

Charlie Appleby’s pair of Jalmoud and Moonlight Spirit also feature in the one-mile-six-furlong Group Two.

David Marnane’s defending champion Settle For Bay and James Tate’s progressive colt New Graduate are just two consider in a typically wide-open renewal of the Royal Hunt Cup.

Ward hopeful of early strike on latest Ascot raid
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