Ward expects big effort from Acapulco in Friday's Nunthorpe
Trainer Wesley Ward gave his flying two-year-old filly Acapulco a massive vote of confidence going into Friday's Nunthorpe (G1) at York, where she will face battle-hardened older males over five furlongs.
"I think she is really going to bring her A-game to the table," Ward said. "I don't think there will be any excuses after the race.
"I couldn't be happier with the way she has trained into it. She is extremely sound -- she wouldn't have a pimple on her.
"She is a big, imposing filly. Physically, she is so sound it's like she is a four-year-old. She is just a big, monstrous individual and I am so extremely happy with her."
Acapulco towered over fellow juvenile fillies in the June 17 Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot, driving to a tally more comprehensive than the 1 1/2-length margin suggests. The third-place finisher, Besharah, has advertised the form by missing in a photo in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2), then going on to handsome scores in the Princess Margaret (G3) and in Thursday's Lowther (G2) at York.
Ward's further comment is possibly telling:
"I really didn't think I'd ever have the right two-year-old to bring over to take on older horses until now."
Coming from the trainer of such past Royal Ascot juvenile success stories as No Nay Never, Hootenanny and Jealous Again, that's high praise for Acapulco, a $750,000 OBS March purchase.
Nor is it beyond the pale to try two-year-olds in the prestigious dash. In recent years, the colt Kingsgate Native defeated his elders here in 2007, and Lyric Fantasy rates as the last juvenile filly to prevail in 1992.
Because of their tender age, of course, juveniles receive hefty weight concessions. But Acapulco, as a filly who physically looks bigger and stronger than her age, isn't exactly behind on the developmental curve. For that reason, the older males might wish they weren't giving a specimen like her 27 pounds!
"It's very competitive," Ward told Racing Post, "but Acapulco is very fast at home and she was the fastest horse at her sale, she was lightning fast. I really think when it's five-eighths of a mile on a straight course and you're getting that weight break it's an immense advantage."
Irad Ortiz Jr. comes over for the mount, providing further intrigue in the wake of the Beverly D. (G1) controversy last week. Ortiz, the rider of Stephanie's Kitten, claimed foul against Jamie Spencer aboard Secret Gesture, who was subsequently disqualified. Spencer is also riding in the Nunthorpe, taking the reins aboard Wind Fire.
Ward added that Ortiz is "on a roll - he's winning four or five races a day at Saratoga. He's an up-and-coming young star, he has that magical X factor."
With all of that in her favor, Acapulco currently ranks as the 2-1 favorite with a spectrum of bookmakers.
If there's a real ground for concern, it might be the ground. York was still good to soft on Thursday, although conditions were expected to be dry into Friday.
A top rival who wants it softish is the distaffer Mecca's Angel, who was recently upset by Stepper Point (last year's Nunthorpe runner-up who shapes up as a 20-1 overlay here). Similar conditions bring out the best in the classy Pearl Secret, another with longshot potential at 15-1. In contrast, defending champ Sole Power wants it quicker than it's likely to be.
A somewhat more ground adaptable threat may be Muthmir, coming off a career-best decision in the King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. He represents the red-hot yard of William Haggas, who's already sent out four winners at this week's Ebor Festival, three in Group stakes.
Photo of Ward and Acapulco courtesy of Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.