Wesley Ward hopes to have star sprinter Golden Pal back to his best in time for the Coolmore Nunthorpe after being forced to rule him out of an intended appearance at Royal Ascot.
Narrowly beaten by The Lir Jet when runner-up in the Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, the son of Uncle Mo went one better in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at his trainer’s home track of Keeneland in November.
Ward had hoped to give the three-year-old a prep run this spring before returning to Ascot for the King’s Stand – but Golden Pal will not be back until later in the season after suffering a minor setback.
“It’s disappointing as we were so excited for the King’s Stand, but you know how these fast horses are and we’re happy to have him bounce back,” said the Washington-born trainer. “He’s good again now and should have his first start (of the year) around Ascot time (in America).”
Having saddled both Acapulco and Lady Aurelia to finish second in the Nunthorpe at York, Ward has everything crossed Golden Pal can break his duck in August, adding: “I’ve had too many seconds in that race – I’ve got to get one!”
While Golden Pal is not Royal Ascot-bound, Ward is preparing another strong team for the showpiece meeting.
Campanelle, who provided her trainer with a fourth win in the Queen Mary Stakes last year, is being readied to take on the colts in the Commonwealth Cup this time around.
Her stablemate Kimari was second in the Commonwealth Cup last season – and could this season contest the Diamond Jubilee, having won twice in her homeland already in 2021.
“Campanelle was going to run at Keeneland last week, but she just wasn’t quite right on the day,” Ward said. “There’s a race in May we can use as her prep and then we’ll be ready for Ascot. I need to talk to the owners of Kimari, but she’d be another possible to travel over.”
Another potentially fascinating addition to Ward’s Ascot squad is Like The King, who impressed in the Grade Three Jeff Ruby Stakes at Turfway Park last month.
However, his first target is to provide a trainer more renowned for training sprinters with victory in the Kentucky Derby on May 1 – a race for which Like The King sits fourth on the points leaderboard after the completion of the qualifying races.
Ward said: “He’ll have his next two works on the dirt, this weekend and next weekend, because he’s 100 per cent heading for the Derby.
“He could possibly be a Royal Ascot starter as well, though. I’ve always wanted to have a runner/winner in the St James’s Palace and we worked this guy on the grass last week and he had an ultra-impressive turf work.
“We’ll see how his next two works are on the dirt and how he runs in the Derby, but he’s a big, rangy colt and the St James’s Palace would be a great race for him.”
Ward is still in the early stages of assembling his team of Royal Ascot two-year-olds, with the juvenile turf races at Keeneland not getting under way until next week.
But he enjoyed a double on the dirt on Thursday, with Averly Jane already on the shortlist for a trip across the Atlantic following a scintillating display.
“Averly Jane was very, very impressive. She kind of geared down and won in the fastest time of the meet,” said Ward.
“She had only had three fast works in her lifetime before she ran, which is what made it so impressive – there’s going to be a big upside with her, I think.
“I spoke with the owners and she would be one we’re targeting at the Albany Stakes at Ascot as it looks like she’ll go a bit further. We have the first turf races for the two-year-old next week – Thursday for the fillies and Friday for the colts. We hope we have a couple of other nice ones to run then.”