Prepared for Multiple Stakes
After many years running horses at Kentucky Downs, Wesley Ward will try to kick off the 2018 meet with a bang on Saturday.
A three-time Kentucky Downs training champion, Ward entered two horses in the $750,000 Tourist Mile, presented by WinStar Farm, but only one will run, he says.
Bound for Nowhere, last seen racing when a very close third in Royal Ascot’s Group 1 Diamond Jubilee in June, has never raced beyond six furlongs, so next week’s $500,000, Grade III Kentucky Cup Turf Sprint might seem made to order, but Ward is going to stretch him out a bit while staying at one turn.
Master Merion, last year’s Franklin-Simpson Stakes winner over the course, is the other entry.
“We’re going to scratch Master Merion,” Ward said by phone Thursday. "I’ve been wanting to stretch Bound for Nowhere out for some time, and he’s been training great here at Keeneland since he came back from England. My plan was always to run him in the Tourist Mile. I was going back and forth whether or not I should run him in the Sprint or this race. My plan was to enter in this race and see if it’s the spot I wanted to try him out going a mile. After drawing the outside post, and going over it with Julio Garcia, who is undefeated on him and gets on him every day, we decided to run here.
“He’s a lovely horse to train," continued Ward, who also owns Bound for Nowhere. "He’s a sprinter, but you’d never know it if you were around him. Julio gallops him with one hand, and he’s like a pony. And he’s a big horse, too. Very intelligent and really, really laid-back dude. When he drew that outside post, Julio can do whatever he wants from there. That race at Royal Ascot, it’s a six-furlong race, but you really need a miler to win a race like that. It’s a slight uphill, but it’s a straight course. Horses will go a little farther if they go around turns, so you really need a miler. ”
Ward said Master Merion would run in either the Sept. 6 Old Friends Stakes for horses that haven’t won a stakes in 2018 or the Grade II Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint on Sept. 8. “I may be leaning toward the Sprint,” he said.
Ward has horses in both 2-year-old stakes Saturday, each worth $400,000. Two Shakes is in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies. Dragic, also a filly, is set to take on the boys in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile. Ward has two other fillies set for the new Turf Sprint for juveniles later in the meet -- Moonlight Romance and Monmouth Park’s Colleen winner Mae Never No.
Ward’s reasoning is that if a horse is doing well, why not take a shot? It paid dividends last year when Ultima D won the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies rather than going in one of Kentucky Downs’ $135,000 maiden races.
“It really doesn’t bother me as much as it does some trainers and owners,” Ward said. “I’ve had a lot of success running fillies against the colts. You get a little weight break, but I just think they are a little more forward the first part of the year as 2-year-olds. I think the colts catch up with them in the fall. But this time of the year, I think it’s an advantage.”
Dragic won her debut at Keeneland and then was fourth in Del Mar’s Grade II Sorrento. The Kentucky Downs stakes will be her grass debut.
“Her breeding does not suggest she’s a grass horse,” Ward said. “But when you see her breeze on on grass, she floats over it. She definitely likes it, and I’m really looking forward to running her there.”
Back to Saturday's Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, Two Shakes is a full sister to the Ward-trained Sunset Glow, winner of the Grade I Del Mar Debutante on dirt and second to Lady Eli in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She's raced once, winning by a nose at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Saratoga.
Ward also entered Con Te Partiro in Saturday’s $250,000 One Dreamer for fillies and mares that haven’t won a stakes race in 2018. That filly last won seven races ago, at the 2017 Royal Ascot meet at 20-1 odds. The trainer said she’ll be back in the entries in the $450,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint, one of four Grade III races on Sept. 8.