05/19/2017 3:20PM

La Coronel among a large group headed to Royal Ascot

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Emily Shields
Edgewood Stakes winner La Coronel (outside) is a possible for the Coronation at Royal Ascot.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The contingent of American horses traveling to England to compete in the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting next month continues to grow. In addition to the six runners, led by European champion Lady Aurelia, whom trainer Wesley Ward put through workouts at Keeneland on Tuesday, the high-class Kentucky-based runner La Coronel is being pointed to Royal Ascot.

“Right now, it’s a go,” trainer Mark Casse said this week about sending her to the June 23 Coronation at Royal Ascot.

A winner of four of six races on grass, La Coronel is widely considered one of the top 3-year-old grass fillies in the United States. The favorite in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita, where she ran sixth with a wide trip from post 13, she has rebounded this year to win two Grade 3 stakes: the Appalachian at Keeneland on April 13 and the Edgewood at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Casse, who took Tepin to Ascot to win the Grade 1 Queen Anne last year, said the Ascot race fits in terms of timing, with the majority of the major stakes for 3-year-old fillies on grass coming in the summer and fall.

“The Oxleys are also great sports people,” Casse said of La Coronel’s owners, John Oxley and his wife, Debby. “They’ve won the Oaks, they’ve won the Derby, but they’ve never run at Royal Ascot.”

The Oxleys’ Kentucky Oaks victory came in 1995 with Gal in a Ruckus and was followed in 2001 by Monarchos’s win in the Kentucky Derby. Both horses were trained by John T. Ward Jr.

Meanwhile, Wesley Ward said his six workers from Tuesday exited their works over the Keeneland grass in good condition and will breeze again next week toward their Royal Ascot engagements.

Those workers and their targeted races are: Lady Aurelia, pointed for the Group 1 King’s Stand on June 20; Fairyland, the Group 3 Albany on June 23; Happy Like a Fool, the Group 2 Queen Mary on June 21; Undrafted, the Wokingham Stakes on June 24; Nootka Sound, the listed Windsor Castle on June 20; and Bound for Nowhere, aimed for the Commonwealth Cup.

“And I’m not done yet,” Ward said. “I’m sitting on a couple 2-year-olds I am going to unveil.”

Another potential Ascot competitor goes for Ward in the first race Sunday at Presque Isle Downs. Nuclear Option debuted with a runner-up finish on dirt at Keeneland last month but is a colt who likely will be much better on turf and synthetic, Ward said.

Travel plans call for the Ward contingent to fly from Indianapolis about 14 days before the start of the Royal Ascot meeting.

Casse eyes Belmont undercard

Casse isn’t just planning for stakes at Ascot. He also is looking to bring some of his top runners to New York for the Belmont Stakes undercard June 10.

Gulfstream Park Oaks winner Salty, fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, is aimed at the Grade 1 Acorn, which also could mark the reappearance of Oaks winner Abel Tasman; and Awesome Slew, a tough-luck second in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day, is being targeted for the Met Mile.

Both horses worked Friday at Churchill Downs, with Awesome Slew going a half-mile on a fast track in 50.40 seconds and Salty the same distance in 51.

Casse also figures to be active in stakes at Churchill Downs later this spring, including in the juvenile division. He trained a 2-year-old colt named Mo Diddley to win at first asking Thursday, and a 2-year-old filly named Beautiful Street then debuted as a winner Friday.

Mo Diddley is a candidate for the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs on June 30, assistant trainer Norm Casse said, and Beautiful Street is a logical prospect for the Debutante, the sister race to the Bashford Manor that is run on the same card.