After a few heartbreaking close losses early in the week, Wesley Ward closed out the Royal Ascot meeting with a Group Queen Mary Stakes win in familiar colors.
Teaming up with Lady Aurelia’s co-owner Stonestreet Stables to target this race for the farm’s 2-year-old Campanelle worked out in spades when she hit the track Saturday. Ridden by the red-hot Frankie Dettori, the filly broke well from post one but was taken back to mid-pack as Sardinia Sunset and Caroline Dale set the pace.
Dettori waited until the final furlong and a half to push the go button and when he did, she responded. The filly was joined by Sacred, a filly out of a half-sister to Lady Eli, but more encouragement from her rider convinced Campanelle to find another gear.
Campanelle won by three-quarters of a length from Sacred to give Ward his first Queen Mary victory since Lady Aurelia in 2016.
“Wesley told me Campanelle had a tendency to lean right, so he was very happy to have the right rail next to me, but she went straight as a gun barrel and she won really well,” Dettori said. “Wesley leaves tactics up to me, but she was in the stalls for a very long time and she lost a bit of concentration. She jumped a little bit slow but they went so fast, and I was able to be on the flank of the field and find my own pace. I had plenty of horse left at the two-furlong marker and, in fairness, she quickened up really well. She has got a very sensible racing head. She did everything I asked of her and it was a good performance.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ward had to watch the race from his base at Keeneland but turned it into a party of sorts for his stable lads.
“We are going crazy here! I am in the stable yard with all my boys,” he said after the race. “I have Charlie O'Connor from Coolmore with me; they had the favorite and he is cheering for me, so don’t tell the boss whatever you do. It’s sad not to be there to celebrate and enjoy this with my family. They love to come over each and every year but it’s another Royal Ascot winner and they are all so special.”
A regular every year at Royal Ascot, Ward often targets his best 2-year-olds and older horses at the meet with 11 career winners at the meet after Campanelle’s victory.
“There is nothing like Royal Ascot,” he said. “We didn't have a winner last year and we had a streak going. We’ve been trying our best. I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me such a talented filly from where started at Stonestreet Stables. It is amazing and Frankie Dettori rode such a brilliant race as he always does. I have got my assistant Blake Heap there and we’ve got a wonderful team assembled in Florida – words just can’t describe it right now.
“She is something and I think that we are going to be heading to the Prix Morny now. I will talk it over with Barbara Banke and the team. We are all real excited.”
Campanelle’s victory was the only win for the Americans during the 36-race meet, but it didn’t prove to be an overall bad week for the invaders. In addition to his victory, Ward also had two seconds while Graham Motion’s Sharing ran a strong second against a top group of fillies in the Group Coronation Stakes two races after Campanelle’s victory.
Horse to Watch: Factor This, the winner of two straight stakes coming into the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs, typically does his best work on the front but Saturday showed another dimension to his running style.
Factor This often opens up a length or so on the field and not deal with much pressure. The Wise Dan played out differently as Ritzy A.P. tried to get him to back down for much of the race. Pressured first by that rival then by the rest of the field in the stretch, Factor This had every excuse to quit but continued trucking on.
The gelding had just turned back Parlor yards before the wire when English Bee made a late run to narrow Factor This’s margin down to a neck at the line.
“That wasn’t as easy as an even-money shot is supposed to win but he ran a huge effort,” trainer Brad Cox said after the race. “He got pressure early and every step of the stretch he was able to fight off his rivals. It was an impressive effort on the front end. We’ll get with the owners and determine a plan from here, but it was very exciting to see how hard he ran today with that adversity.”
The winner of 10 of 29 starts, Factor This started his 2020 campaign with a third in a listed stakes before winning two graded stakes at the Fair Grounds.
Maiden to Watch: A day after winning a race at Royal Ascot, Wesley Ward’s stable was back in the winner’s circle Sunday afternoon at Belmont Park with debut winner Roderick.
A $550,000 Keeneland September yearling, the 2-year-old colt by Into Mischief dueled early with Zippy Baby but quickly put that rival behind. Asked to pick it up in the stretch by Irad Ortiz Jr., Roderick happily complied and romped home by 8 1/4 lengths when eased in the final sixteenth.
A full brother to Grade 3 winner One Liner and from the family of Grade 1 winners Albertus Maximus and Daredevil, the colt was one of two winners on the day for Ward. The trainer also sent out homebred 2-year-old Blues Power to an easy victory in the second race at Churchill on that gelding’s debut.
Handicapper’s Report: Charles Bedard continued to hold the hot hand on the handicapping front, picking 17 winners from the 36 races analyzed by The Saratoga Special’s team and guests.
Charles came up with six winners at Belmont, including Belmont Stakes winner Tiz The Law, Grade 1 Acorn winner Gamine and Grade 2 Pennine Ridge winner Decorated Invader. He moved into second in the season standings with the big day and improved his record to 84-for-270 (31.1 percent).
John Shapazian continues the lead the way and finished Saturday with 16 winners, including seven at Santa Anita Park. John picked six straight winners at Santa Anita from the fourth through ninth races along with Shadow Sphinx in the finale. He also picked five winners at Belmont and four at Churchill to improve to 93-for-270 (34.4 percent).
Rob Whitlock fared next best with 12 winners on the day, including seven at Belmont Park. His picks came in a row, three straight with the third through fifth and four consecutive with the seventh through Tiz The Law in the Belmont Stakes. Rob’s seasonal mark stands at 71-for-270 (26.3 percent).
Tom Law lost the second spot after only coming up with 11 winners Saturday, including six at Belmont. His season record is 82-for-270 (30.4 percent).
Quote of the Week: “It means a lot to me. This is my home track. I’ve riding here for about six years already. One leg of the Triple Crown is the dream of any jockey.” - Jockey Manny Franco after winning Saturday’s Belmont Stakes on Tiz The Law. Franco figures to have more exciting days ahead with the colt’s trainer Barclay Tagg confirming that the Grade 1 Travers Aug. 8 is next up for their classic winner before he heads to the Kentucky Derby.