Catching up with Wesley Ward

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Last year, I caught up with Wesley Ward after he raided Royal Ascot with No Nay Never. A year later, the American-based trainer has already won one at the meet and has more chances over the next three days.

Here’s what Ward said last year about the challenges of Royal Ascot.

“I try to target these early races, I put a lot of time into these babies where I can take an advantage, where I’m not running against maiden special horses from now until Saratoga. You can pick up some decent purses with some nominal pedigrees and low-priced yearlings. When you do that, sometimes you can run a big race and sell them, sometimes you can’t. But I always felt like once you do that, once you do win, there’s really nowhere to go, you have to sit and wait for the big shots to win, then you’re overmatched in the stakes races at Saratoga and Del Mar. I said, ‘you know if they have these 2-year-old races in Europe, as precocious as the 2-year-olds I have are, you might be able to hit a fast track and get lucky.’

“Surface is the key. The surface has to be quick and fast, otherwise you have no chance. You start watching a good ways ahead of time, because even if the course is dry on the week, if it’s been raining, it can get waterlogged. I try to go right on top of the race. Four days out. (In 2012) I took them off the plane because the forecast was all rain. Two years prior to that, they all won at Keeneland and then won in France, all five won, and I was going to flip them over to Royal Ascot, but it was raining, raining, raining. I ended up running one and he got beat an eighth of a mile, he had run in 57 and change in France, I scratched all of them, they breed for 300 years for that type of going, so you basically have no chance.

“Even myself, training in California for all the years I did, I didn’t realize how big a deal Royal Ascot is, it’s really great I had a good showing again, to prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time I went. American horses can go over there and compete, if anyone is to go there to run and stay for the week of racing, there is no racing better in the world for those five days. Not only racing, everybody’s having a great time, everybody knows the horses, the jockeys. It’s like the World Series of racing. It’s really a big deal. It’s like going back to the 30s, 40s, 50s, people are still into the racing over there. It’s on mainstream TV. It’s fantastic to see that, from a guy like myself that wakes up every day of his life, since he was a little boy and the only thing I think about is horse racing, the majority of the people over there are the same way. It’s a shame, our game seems to be making a left turn and their game is so strong.

“I even got to sit the Queen, they took me up there, I sat with the Queen for 20 minutes right after the win, she wanted to meet me so they brought me up there, she was asking me all about my horses, how they go to the front, we were talking about racing, breeding. She’s such a wonderful lady. I would never have expected that from her. I’m walking up there, thinking, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to talk to this lady?’ It was like sitting next to your grandmother who goes to the races every day of her life, she’s the most down-to-earth person you want to meet, she’s such a sweetheart.”