05/30/2016 2:55PM

Private stallion Iqbaal making an impact for Ward

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Big City Dreamin, by Iqbaal, wins a maiden race at Keeneland in April.

Trainer Wesley Ward on Tuesday will ship to England his contingent of runners being pointed for races at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting, and on the plane will be the 2-year-old filly Big City Dreamin, by the obscure stallion Iqbaal.

Few people outside of Ward and a few of his friends are familiar with Iqbaal, a son of Medaglia d’Oro who stands in Florida. Iqbaal is listed as private, and while that refers to his stud fee (which is zero), it may as well be a label for anyone thinking about breeding a mare to him. That’s because Ward is almost the only one who breeds to the stallion, and he also trains almost all his offspring. And, oh yeah, he stands Iqbaal at his Ward Ranch in Ocala, Fla.

“I took the chance and bred him to some mares,” Ward said of Iqbaal, who won two of three starts, “and he’s just been phenomenal.”

In his first two crops of racing age, Iqbaal has had 10 starters and five winners, with his oldest foals now 3. He had five foals (all starters) in his first crop and 12 foals in his second. Of the 10 starters, Ward bred nine of them, has trained nine of them, and has owned seven of them. On May 26, the juvenile gelding Lifelong Dreamer, by Iqbaal, won a $35,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream by 5 3/4 lengths in his debut for owner-breeder-trainer Ward.

Big City Dreamin is owned by Ward’s friend Steven Bell. Ward bred Big City Dreamin and sold her privately to Bell, who was looking for a filly he could also race overseas and liked the filly’s pedigree. Bell will get a chance to see her race in England when Ward saddles her in the $117,000, five-furlong Windsor Castle on June 14, opening day of the five-day Royal Ascot meet, which has 18 group stakes.

Big City Dreamin won her only start, an open maiden race at Keeneland on April 8, making all the pace and winning with something left. Big City Dreamin is out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Teriffany. Ward had bred and raced Teriffany in partnership with actor Joe Pesci and Mark Giardino, who produced a documentary on racing several years ago, and she won one of three starts, the victory coming on Polytrack.

Big City Dreamin has been at Arlington to work on grass several times before shipping overseas.

Ward took a chance on Iqbaal when he saw him for sale as a 4-year-old racing or stallion prospect at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Offered late in the sale, Iqbaal ended up the highest-priced horse of the 11th session when Ward went to $70,000 to buy him from Sheikh Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm.

Bred by Del Ridge Farm, Shadwell had purchased Iqbaal for $675,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale. He was trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and won his first two starts at 3 at Monmouth Park, and in his third and final start, he was third to Bad Action in the Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes.

“He’s a big horse, and if you saw him, he’s one of the most beautiful horses you’d ever see, but he’s huge, a monster,” Ward said. “He looks like a rhinoceros. He’s a big, huge monster. A gentle giant. He’s a sweetheart of a horse.”

Ward was interested in Iqbaal because at the time, he had the stallion Bring the Heat at his farm and was getting offers to move the horse to Kentucky, and he wanted a backup in case the stallion moved. Iqbaal is out of the Storm Cat mare Queen’s Lady, and the second dam is the graded stakes-winning Fappiano mare Jeano. Jeano is the grandam of champion juvenile filly Folklore. Iqbaal is named for the Persian poet Muhammad Iqbal (“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians”).

Before the sale, Ward contacted McLaughlin about Iqbaal and was told he had a condylar fracture, which had been repaired with a screw. Sheikh Maktoum had placed him in the sale because he had wanted to cull his racing stock.

“Kiaran said, ‘I was begging Sheikh Maktoum not to sell him because he’s coming back, and everything was looking good,’ Ward said, “and [Sheikh Maktoum] ended up saying, ‘No, you’re going to sell him anyway.’ ”

Ward initially put Iqbaal into training, thinking he could win back his purchase price, but one day while working the horse, he heard a roar.

He scoped the horse and found that Iqbaal had a tieback, a surgery on the throat that pulls the paralyzed arytenoid cartilages to the side and sutures them to prevent a blockage of the airway passage.

“I brought him home, and I ended up moving my other stallion [Bring the Heat] to Kentucky,” Ward said. “And he died at Doug Arnold’s farm [Buck Pond] right before the breeding season started. So, I have this other guy, which is when I started breeding him.

“I was thinking that if he’s this beautiful, and he’s a runner, and he had a tieback, how good could this horse really have been if he could have breathed?”

Ward stood Iqbaal for the 2013 breeding season, and he’s been there since. He covered only three mares in 2015, but Ward believes he’s getting a lot of value out of the stallion since it helps supply him with runners for the track at a very low cost.

“The mares I’m breeding to him would not bring a bid at a sale,” he said. “They were nice runners, and I like to give them good homes.

“It works out well that I’m able to breed them in Florida, raise them in Florida, break them in Florida, and race in the summertime in Florida. It helps the racing in Florida as far as helping Gulfstream out, and management is happy with me because I have quite a few starts at Gulfstream. And [the horses] find their levels, and they wind up getting claimed away from me.”

Ward said he plans to keep the horse private for now, and just he and a few friends breed mares to him.

If Big City Dreamin were to win at Royal Ascot, however, that would draw some attention.

“She won the first baby race at Keeneland because she’s a quality horse,” Ward said. “We’re going to point her to the Windsor Castle, and I think she’s going to have a big chance.”

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