06/20/2009 12:00AM

Ward just misses on Ascot's closing day

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Art Connoisseur holds off Cannonball by a neck to win the Group 1 Golden Jubilee on Saturday, closing day of the Royal Ascot meet.

Cannonball suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the Group 1, $742,000 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday as the 20-1 longshot Art Connoisseur held him safe by a neck to land a sizzling hot renewal of the six-furlong sprint. The last of Wesley Ward's seven Royal Meeting runners turned in the best effort of his life, however, as he had the champion sprinters from South Africa and Hong Kong toiling behind him.

With French ace Olivier Peslier replacing John Velazquez, who had flown back to New York on Friday night after having ridden two winners for Ward earlier in the week, the 11-1 Cannonball settled towards the rear behind a moderate pace set by the 5-2 South African favorite J J The Jet Plane. The undefeated Greek runner Ialysos, Hong Kong champ Sacred Kingdom, and last year's winner Kingsgate Native were never far away, while Tom Queally had the Michael Bell-trained Art Connoisseur at the back of the 14-runner field.

Peslier waited patiently with Cannonball and as the leaders began to fade the gelded 4-year-old son of Catienus began to make rapid progress, but Art Connoisseur had found a gap along the rail. He got first run on the American and although Cannonball never gave up, Art Connoisseur was just a bit better on the day. The only filly in the field, Lesson in Humility, was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Cannonball, while J J The Jet Plane and Sacred Kingdom filled the fourth and fifth places. Diabolical was sixth with Ialysos, who was banged around roughly at the halfway point, 12th, and Kingsgate Native 13th. The time of the 3-year-old winner, who had won the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, was 1:14.90.

Cannonball's performance was all the more remarkable in that he was running on just four days' rest after having closed nicely to finish sixth in Tuesday's five-furlong King's Stand Stakes. He is no stranger to quick turnarounds, however, as he had finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park two year's ago, five days after having won an ungraded stakes at Belmont Park.

Ward had no luck at all with Honor in Peace in the listed, $82,000 Chesham Stakes. The 16-1 shot veered left at the start, bumping eventual runner-up Emperor Claudius, made the lead under Peslier, but was headed halfway through the straight seven furlongs, weakening to finish last of 16, 43 3/4 lengths behind the victorius Big Audio. The 22-1 Richard Hannon-trained son of Oratorio held off Emperor Claudius's late rush by a short head, his time on good to firm ground, 1:30.19.

Ward thus concluded his bold royal foray with two victories, Jealous Again in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes and Strike the Deal in the listed Windsor Castle Stakes, plus a second from seven starts for earnings of $304,278. His was a history-making venture that provided America with its first European flat winners since Fourstars Allstar had won the Irish 2000 Guineas in 1991, the first ever U.S. winners at Ascot, and the first U.S. flat winners in England since Reigh Count took the Coronation Cup at Epsom in 1929.