06/18/2009 11:00PM

A historic first for Cal-bred


First, he made a habit of winning stakes throughout the nation with California-breds. Then, he bred and trained a California-bred filly who set a world record for 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland in April 2007.

This week, breeder-trainer Wesley Ward's California-bred 2-year-olds went international - and made history.

Tuesday, the Ward-trained California-bred Strike the Tiger won the Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in England, becoming the first American-trained winner of that historic race meeting.

The next day, Ward won the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Jealous Again, a Florida-bred.

Reached by phone Thursday evening in London, where he and a group of friends and family were celebrating the success, Ward was somewhere between enthusiastic and giddy over the week's events.

"That was fantastic," he said of Strike the Tiger's win. "We were so excited."

Strike the Tiger, a gelding, is by Tiger Ridge out of the In Excess mare R Lucky Strike. Tiger Ridge, a 13-year-old half-brother to the stallions A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, stood at stud in Florida for several years but is now at stud in South Africa.

R Lucky Strike was bred to Tiger Ridge in 2006 and was later sent to California. R Lucky Strike foaled Strike the Tiger on Feb. 9, 2007. Later that year, R Lucky Strike was bred to Tribal Rule. She has a yearling filly by that stallion.

It is the female side of Strike the Tiger's family that has strong roots in California racing and breeding.

R Lucky Strike, 6, had 1 win in 3 starts and earnings of $37,666, all in 2005. She won her debut at Del Mar in a maiden special weight race, finished fourth in the Generous Portion Stakes for statebred 2-year-old fillies, and was fifth in an allowance race at Fairplex Park in September 2005, her final start.

Strike the Tiger is her first foal. Ward said Thursday that R Lucky Strike is at his farm in Ocala, Fla.

R Lucky Strike is out of Osho Togo, a Strike Gold mare who won 3 of 13 starts and $59,150 in 2001 and 2002. Trained by Doug O'Neill, Osho Togo was a California-bred who won three claiming races. She was claimed for $10,000 in her final start in early 2002.

Long before Tuesday's milestone win, Ward had significant success with other California-breds. He trained the multiple stakes winner Men's Exclusive, who earned more than $1.4omillion racing in the late 1990s and earlier this decade. Earlier this decade, he trained the mare Bear Fan, who won five stakes and earned $808,150. Last year, one of his leading 2-year-olds was the California-bred filly My Sweet Natalie, winner of two stakes at Calder.

Ward also bred and trained One Hot Wish, a California-bred by Bring the Heat that ran 4 1/2 furlongs in a world-record time of 48.87 seconds at Keeneland in April 2007.

For Ward, an era ended when he relocated his family and racing and breeding operation to Florida a few years ago. Asked on Thursday if he had any horses remaining in California, Ward said, "Not a one."