06/10/2016 2:30PM

Hovdey: Harty looks to grab some Royal Ascot sod


Time again for us Yanks to get all excited about Royal Ascot, that five-day exercise in genetic privilege and excessive champagne consumption that masquerades as serious horse racing.

What happens at Royal Ascot stays at Royal Ascot, except for the colorful public behaviors that proliferate on all forms of social media and in the rabid tabloid pages of the British press.

A much younger version of this reporter figured he knew all he needed to know about the gaudy festival when the coverage in one magazine led with a photo collage of how the updraft from executive helicopters played havoc with the short dresses of their disembarking women passengers. Whee.

Speaking of which, it will be important this coming week to keep straight the American runners Drafted and Undrafted, not to mention the pair of American mares, Tepin and Miss Temple City, as well as their younger sister in arms, Acapulco. As U.S. invasions go for Royal Ascot, it is a substantial bunch.

Most of them are familiar. Tepin, an American champion, will try to do what Animal Kingdom could not do three years ago when he was unplaced – and deeply uninterested – in the Queen Anne Stakes at one mile. Set the alarm for this one, though. The Queen Anne goes as the first race on Tuesday, the first day of the festival, and is named for the 18th century monarch who first pointed to the Ascot swards and said, “Let’s have a horse race.”

The British-born, fully Americanized Graham Motion will try to erase the memory of Animal Kingdom’s flop with Miss Temple City in the one-mile Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday. The current duke of Cambridge is Princess Kate’s husband, whathisname.

Miss Temple City ran very well at Royal Ascot last year and beat the boys this year in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland, although it looks like she’ll have to face mares from Andre Fabre, John Gosden, Richard Hannon, and Saeed bin Suroor to win the $141,000 top prize. There are no easy spots at Royal Ascot.

Washington’s Wesley Ward, whose honorary British citizenship is being reviewed by the queen, has his previous Royal Ascot winners Acapulco and Undrafted primed for major sprint events during the week. Acapulco’s main target will be the Commonwealth Cup on Friday and its first prize of $325,000, while Undrafted will try to become the first horse since 1959 to win consecutive runnings of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday, which is worth nearly half a million to the winner. Back then, it was called the Cork and Orrery.

Then there is Drafted, no relation to Undrafted, except they are both very fast. Eoin Harty trains Drafted and brought this on himself since he bought the son of Field Commissioner for $35,000 last March in Ocala, Fla., and gave him the name. Royal Ascot was not in the plan at the time.

It was, however, once Drafted scorched Keeneland in his April 27 debut with a track record at 4 1/2 furlongs under the colors of longtime Harty client Richard Laird. Soon after, he was purchased by Godolphin, Harty’s primary patron, and it was off to England for the Windsor Castle Stakes at five furlongs, the final race of the Tuesday program.

Harty was reached Friday afternoon while grazing Drafted at the Highfields Stable annex of the sprawling Godolphin property in Newmarket, the center of the British racing universe. Ascot is about a hundred miles to the south.

“I’ve returned to my roots,” said Harty, which took some explaining since he is very much a son of the Emerald Isle.

“The first 10 years of my life, my dad was a jockey, and we lived very close to Lambourn in an extremely small village called Baydon,” Harty said.

In 2011, the population of Baydon was 664.

“The only other time I ran a horse at Royal Ascot was before they built the new grandstand and renovated the course,” Harty said. “That was in 2004 with a very nice sprinter called Lydgate in the King’s Stand. He drew the 20 hole of 20, and I read that morning no horse in the 200-year history of the race had won from outside the 10 post. I knew I was good, but not that good.”

Lydgate ran admirably to finish ninth in a cluster behind the victorious The Tatling.

Amid the 18 group races at the festival, the Windsor Castle is a more modest listed race open to all 2-year-olds. A field of 27 ran in the 2015 version, and it should be all hands on deck again this year with youngsters from most of the major stables, as well as from Ward, who has Big City Dreamin and John Velazquez in the mix. Ward won the 2014 Windsor Castle with Hootenanny and Victor Espinoza.

“There’s a reason you hear a Wesley Ward/Royal Ascot reference about every 30 minutes around here,” Harty said.

Whether or not Harty can add a Royal Ascot event to an international résumé that includes victories in such events as the Dubai World Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, and the Travers Stakes is squarely in the hands of his rapid gray sprinter.

“The thought was to try and pick the low-hanging fruit,” Harty said. “The race has a reputation of being quite a cavalry charge, though. And if Wesley has one in there, you’d better bring you’re ‘A’ game.”