Contingent: Top 5 American Runners Coming to Royal Ascot Next Week
“The Americans are coming” … an oft-trod phrase in mid-June, ever since Wesley Ward and a bevy of other North American trainers and their owners have arrived at the hallowed ground called Ascot. The presence of Her Majesty the Queen, continues to make this 5-day event, which begins next Tuesday June 15th and races through Saturday June 19th, a must-watch on the international Thoroughbred calendar. The powerful and the graceful represent a wide-range of flat runners who will vie for the honor and glory that is some of the greatest contests on the planet. After a year that saddled the globe with COVID-19, and saw the races held west of London run without fans present, we all get to return to the pageantry and élan that is Royal Ascot.
As part of the festivities, Americans continue to play a major role in several key races, which all take place on the turf. Traditionally, some “give” in the ground is welcome, as entrants hail from not only Europe, but other locales from Japan to the Middle East, and of course the United States. Trainer Wesley Ward, a former jockey turned conditioner, figured out long ago that he could take raw 2-yr-olds, and train them up in the warm of environment of Florida and the cold of Northern Kentucky. Readying them at such a rapid pace, with gate training and “baby races” at Keeneland, allowed him to enter some strong sprinters at Royal Ascot. Strike the Tiger, Lady Aurelia, etc. … His success brought the likes of Graham Motion, Mark Casse, and many others ...
This year, 11 have shipped in … ready to take on the best and the brightest the world has to offer. Here is a short list of 5, that are ones to catch, as they try to get home, reaching for Royal Ascot fame …
The Countdown …
5. Kaufymaker (Filly, 2-yr-old) (JIMMY CREED - HEAVEN'S TOUCH, BY MONTBROOK) Trainer: Wesley A. Ward / Owner: Gregory Kaufman
Taking on the boys in the Coventry Stakes (G2), Wesley Ward has this burner coming in hot, and ready for action against a massive field of 20+ runners. Going over the undulating turf straightaway on one of the most famous courses in the world should be exciting, as always. This is a race Ward has never won. He would like to, and this talented filly has the guts to do so. Go back and watch when she broke her maiden at Keeneland, if you are skeptical … Johnny V, who teamed with Ward for a number of wins during the Lexington April Meet, will ride again! WATCH: Tuesday, 15 June
4. Artos (IRE) (Filly, 2-yr-old) (KODIAC (GB) - SHIMMERING MOMENT, BY AFLEET ALEX) Trainer: Rusty Arnold / Owner: Dunne, Amy E., Harlow, Pat, Miley, Brenda and Wilkinson, Jean
This is the first time around for Rusty Arnold to visit Royal Ascot, but lest we forget, he is a seasoned conditioner. Bringing this lightly-raced filly into the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes, she is going to be up against it, when it comes to class. But that is how it works coming to the UK. Arnold has her ready, and she could be a massive price. Her last race at Churchill Downs was mixed. She lost the lead with Julien Leparoux aboard; only to re-rally for the win. You do not see that often. Leparoux has won at Ascot before … on the wonderful Tepin for Mark Casse. WATCH: Wednesday, 16 June
3. Golden Bell (Filly, 2-yr-old) (MACHO UNO - PEGGY MAY, BY LEMON DROP KID) Trainer: Wesley A. Ward / Owner: Hat Creek Racing and Cheyenne Stable LLC
Albany Stakes (G3) over 6F is a test early on Friday, as Royal Ascot heads towards its completion. Wesley Ward has spoken highly of this impressive filly, who may not look like much on paper after only 1 race at Keeneland. This is Ward’s plan, and it works! She has major talent, and breakaway speed even with soft footing under her. This race will be an interesting betting opportunity. I wouldn’t count her out. In the past with such an expansive field, the Albany has witnessed some major upsets. Who could forget Different League (FR) scoring over heavily-favored Alpha Centauri in 2017? Stay tuned! WATCH: Friday, 18 June
2. Maven (Gelding, 4-yr-old) (AMERICAN PHAROAH - RICHIES PARTY GIRL, BY ANY GIVEN SATURDAY) Trainer: Wesley A. Ward / Owner: Richard Ravin
Campanelle is going to get significant play from U.S. bettors, but one of Ward’s other top runners is this one. Maven came to Chantilly (FR) 2-years-ago, and did not disappoint in a Group 3 race. Now, the well-bred son of American Pharoah is ready for action in the Group 1 King’s Stand going 5F. His trainer has him sharp after some stellar works at his home track, Keeneland. Back in April, Maven got down to business, winning in fine fashion in his 2021 debut. In the King’s, it will not be easy with experienced runners like Battaash (possible), Winter Power, and Extravagant Kid drawing in. If anyone can do it … it is Wesley Ward who owns 11 of 12 American victories at Royal Ascot. WATCH: Tuesday, 15 June
1. Extravagant Kid (Gelding, 8-yr-old) (KISS THE KID - PRETTY EXTRAVAGANT, BY WITH DISTINCTION) Trainer: Brendan P. Walsh / Owner: DARRS, Inc.
For some time, the claimer out of Gulfstream Park has steadily graduated up the class ranks, and made an impression. Last out, this Florida bred was guided by Ryan Moore as he cruised to victory in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup Night. It was an impressive victory, and gave Brendan Walsh much to celebrate. Now, this seasoned gelding is re-emerging at Royal Ascot, and he could be more than a square price in the King’s Stand (G1), as Frankie Dettori takes the mount. This is a competitive contest to say the least, but Walsh will have him primed. If you can beat Charlie Appleby’s Space Blues, that is saying something. “The Kid” did that in Dubai. More to come … WATCH: Tuesday, 15 June
Catch our selections and expert analysis next week, as we kick off Royal Ascot 2021! The American contingent is on hand ... Are you ready?