07/02/2009 11:00PM

Ward plots next moves with Ascot winner


Strike the Tiger's upset win in the Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in England last month has led breeder-trainer Wesley Ward to plan an ambitious stakes schedule for the California-bred.

Strike the Tiger, who became the first American-trained winner at Royal Ascot, has returned to Ward's stable at Monmouth Park and is being prepared for the $50,000 Chenery Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Colonial Downs in Virginia on July 25.

"He's been training all week long," Ward said. "It's good spacing to get him back."

Later this year, Ward would like to start Strike the Tiger in the $200,000 Cradle Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf at River Downs on Sept. 7 and a stakes at Keeneland in the fall.

Prior to leaving for Royal Ascot, Strike the Tiger worked on turf at River Downs in May and twice on the main track at Keeneland in June. Ward said the decision to start Strike the Tiger at River Downs is a gesture to officials at that track.

"The people at River Downs were wonderful and let me go on the grass," Ward said on Thursday. "He went from their track to Ascot and did so well. I think the stretch-out at River Downs will find out if he can route or not. He's shown an affinity for the turf and an affinity for that turf course."

Strike the Tiger is by Tiger Ridge out of the In Excess mare R Lucky Strike. Tiger Ridge stood at stud in Florida for several years but is now at stud in South Africa. After foaling Strike the Tiger, R Lucky Strike was bred to California stallion Tribal Rule. She produced a California-bred filly bred by Ward who resides on his Florida farm.

Ward had two wins at Royal Ascot. A day after Strike the Tiger won the Windsor Castle, the Ward-trained Jealous Again won the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. She was recently bought by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

Ward had one other California-bred runner at Royal Ascot in Yogaroo, who finished ninth in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes over five furlongs on June 18.

Yogaroo is a candidate for the $100,000 Graduation Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds at Del Mar on July 29. By Bring the Heat, Yogaroo has 1 win in 3 starts. He won his second start, a maiden special weight race over 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland on April 23.

Unusual Heat closing in on top spot

Unusual Heat, the leading stallion in California by progeny earnings in 2008, is creeping toward the top of that list again this year. Through Thursday, Unusual Heat was second, with progeny earnings of $2,643,103, trailing leader Silic by $785,869.

Silic vaulted to the top of the list in March when Gladiatorus won the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in Dubai. Silic stands at Getaway Farm in Romoland, Calif. Gladiatorus has earned $3,261,499 this year.

Unusual Heat's top earner this year is Beltene, the winner of the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita in January, with $185,308. That list could change if Pretty Unusual fares well in Sunday's $700,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Pretty Unusual has earned $147,152, all this year. After winning the Melair, she finished sixth in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks.

The American Oaks is her graded stakes debut on turf, and trainer Barry Abrams, who has banked nearly his entire stable on Unusual Heat's progeny in recent years, is not sure what to expect.

"My horse has tremendous ability," he said. "She ran good in the Melair and she was terrible in the Hollywood Oaks. Which one will show up? I don't know."