Lady Aurelia among raft of American entries for Royal Ascot
After Wesley Ward’s successes at Royal Ascot, and Tepin’s historic victory in the Queen Anne (G1) last summer for Mark Casse, the American invasion for the 2017 festivities is gathering pace.
Early entries were announced Wednesday for Royal Ascot’s eight Group 1 events, and U.S. hopefuls are engaged in five.
Lady Aurelia, Ward’s flying filly who aired in the Queen Mary (G2) last June, is likely to face older males in the opening-day June 20 King’s Stand (G1) over the same five-furlong trip. The distance appears to be more favorable for her than sticking with fellow sophomores in the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1) on the Friday, June 23, card.
“Lady Aurelia is doing fantastic,” Ward said. “She had a real good rest after her unfortunate defeat at Newmarket at the end of last season and ran a very exciting comeback race at Keeneland (when capturing the Giant’s Causeway). I am excited to get back over to Royal Ascot with her.
“We are leaning towards the King's Stand Stakes, as she is most effective at five furlongs. She ran lights out the other day in her race at Keeneland.”
Ironically, Ward could find himself up against his former stable star Acapulco, who was switched to Aidan O’Brien to prepare for her final career starts. The Coolmore game plan was to get her in foal to Galileo this spring and point for the King’s Stand.
If Lady Aurelia sticks to the King’s Stand, Ward has another in mind for the Commonwealth Cup.
“I also have the colt Bound for Nowhere who is nominated for the Commonwealth Cup -- he is undefeated and I am excited about him.
“The two-year-olds are also looking good. We have had a couple of winners and we are heading in the right direction.
“We also had a really, really nice comeback with Undrafted (who won the Diamond Jubilee [G1] in 2015) and we could look at trying to get him into the Wokingham (a heritage handicap) this year. He is a seven-year-old now but his comeback win at Keeneland (in an April 21 allowance) was good and the Wokingham could be a possibility for him.
“Royal Ascot has been so kind to me,” added Ward, who scored the first of seven wins at the meeting with Strike the Tiger in the 2009 Windsor Castle. “It is a point in the calendar that I aim at every year and have been lucky enough to have had some success. Everyone in Britain has always been so kind to us.
“My son was a little tiny guy when we first came over and is heading into the University of Miami this year! He was a tiny guy with his top hat over his ears back in 2009 and is now going to college. It is great looking at all the photos of Royal Ascot we have and at how the timeline has developed."
Lady Aurelia could be one of as many as three Americans in the King’s Stand, along with Peter Miller’s Richard’s Boy, a gallant fifth in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, and another Southern Californian, Why Two, from the Mike Machowsky barn. She’s also part of a potential U.S. trio in the Commonwealth Cup later that week. Aside from her stablemate Bound for Nowhere, Berks County has also been given an entry by trainer Carlos Martin.
The meet-opening Queen Anne may include two American contenders aiming to emulate Tepin – Graham Motion’s Miss Temple City, who would be making her third trip here after honorable fourths in the 2015 Coronation (G1) and 2016 Duke of Cambridge (G2), and Todd Pletcher’s American Patriot, most recently successful in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
The test down the straight mile may be coming up deeper than a year ago, with Aidan O’Brien’s seven-time Group 1 star Minding in the mix. She’s also eligible for the Wednesday feature, the Prince of Wales’s (G1), over 10 furlongs June 21, which is the principal target for French celebrity Almanzor. We’ll know more about the likely composition of the Queen Anne field after the May 20 Lockinge (G1), and the Prince of Wales’s will come into focus following the May 28 Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1). The Prix d’Ispahan (G1), also on May 28, may offer clues on both Royal Ascot events.
Similarly, the June 20 St James’s Palace (G1) for three-year-old milers hinges upon developments in the 2000 Guineas (G1) on May 6 at Newmarket, the French equivalent at Deauville May 14, and the Irish version at the Curragh May 27. If Churchill is as dazzling as Ballydoyle bulletins suggest, the antepost favorite for the 2000 Guineas could be all the rage come Royal Ascot.
The companion race for three-year-old fillies on the round mile, the Coronation on June 23, is likewise informed by the spring classics. Casse has entered La Coronel in hopes that she can follow the trail blazed by now-retired Tepin, but within the confines of her own division.
“La Coronel is doing great,” Casse said, “and we currently plan on running her against colts on Derby Day at Churchill Downs in the American Turf (G2).
“I've been very happy with both of her races this year,” the trainer commented, referring to La Coronel’s near-miss in the March 11 Florida Oaks (G3) and her commanding victory in the April 13 Appalachian (G3) at Keeneland.
“Her last start at Keeneland was a very tough race including a Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies’ Turf [G1]) winner and runner-up (New Money Honey and Coasted respectively) and she won it easily.
“She will need to run well at Churchill in the American Turf and, if she does, there is a very good chance she will come to Royal Ascot.
“She enjoys a little give in the ground and is a very smart filly, I think she will handle Ascot fine. Tepin's success at Ascot has definitely gave us more confidence and a better understanding of the English racing.”
O’Brien may have a strong hand in the Coronation if Rhododendron, the antepost favorite for the 1000 Guineas (G1) May 7, lives up to billing.
The master of Ballydoyle plans to send Order of St George for a title defense in the Thursday, June 22 feature, the Gold Cup (G1). The 2 1/2-mile marathon could lure Vazirabad from France, but Alain de Royer-Dupre has cautioned that he’ll only come if the temperature isn’t too hot. (That nugget comes from his “At the Races” stable tour with Liz Price.)
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is considering Long on Value for the final Group 1 of the Royal meeting, the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday, June 24. The six-furlong sprint could serve up a rematch with France’s The Right Man, who just held on from Long on Value in the Al Quoz.
“Long on Value traveled very well from Dubai and is back in training,” Mott said. “We haven't given him a breeze yet, but he is cantering. He looks like he held his weight well and seems to be doing good after his trip.
“He has been nominated for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and it is very exciting as I have never been to Royal Ascot before.
“Long on Value has held his form for a long time and has been a very useful horse. He is an interesting horse as he has won at multiple distances - from five furlongs to nine furlongs. He has done all his winning in decent company and some of his very best performances have come at sprint distances.
“We are excited just to be able to participate.”
Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Communications, Ascot Racecourse, was understandably happy with the early entries.
“We are pleased with the strong entries for the eight Group 1 contests at Royal Ascot this year, including a high-quality U.S. contingent,” Smith said.
“Tepin's win last year was a significant moment and has clearly opened up options for Mark Casse and other leading U.S. trainers, some of whom have not had runners with us before.
“The strength in depth in Australia isn't as evident as usual and, with Jameka having suffered travel sickness during her preparation to travel, we will turn our attention to 2018 and hopefully see Winx’s participation.
“Sixties Song, for Argentina, is on course for the King George (and Queen Elizabeth [G1] on July 29) which would be exciting and break new ground. South America is very much an emerging force in world racing and it is testament to what has been achieved there that he gained a rating of 120 for winning the Granpremio Latinoamericano (G1)."
Photos of Lady Aurelia and La Coronel courtesy Keeneland/Coady Photography
The Right Man and Long on Value courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins