06/07/2009 11:00PM

Ward taking a shot overseas


Wesley Ward will invade Royal Ascot with a fully loaded six-shooter for the five-day meeting that runs from Tuesday, Juneo16, to Saturday, June 20. The Keeneland-based trainer is taking advantage of Ascot's gnawing hunger for American-trained horses by bringing a half-dozen to the Royal Meeting, five of them winning 2-year-olds.

An attractive plan that offers some travel aid to foreign-based horses is helping to make Ward's assault on Britain's most prestigious race meeting look a little less quixotic than it first appears. The six Ward trainees arrived at Newmarket on Thursday and are stabled at the Abingdon Place stables of South African trainer Mike de Kock. All of them were out working Monday morning under the guidance of Ward's assistant, Jose Corrales. Kieren Fallon, under suspension for a cocaine positive until September, has been riding some of them in the mornings in between his regular work for Michael Stoute.

Cannonball is the best known of Ward's sextet. Second in his last two tries in Keeneland's Grade 3 Shakertown Stakes and Churchill Downs's Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint, the 4-year-old son of Catienus is slated to go in one of the Royal Meeting's toughest races, the six-furlong Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes on June 20. Cannonball will be in against the likes of South African sprint champ JJ the Jet Plane, who earned a Racing Post Rating of 126 for his four-length win in the listed six-furlong Leisure Stakes at Windsor on Monday evening. Australian speedster Takeover Target also is a possibility.

There are six juvenile stakes run at Royal Ascot, at least one on each day, and Ward will have runners in five of them. First up will be Honor in Peace in the six-furlong, Group 2 Coventry Stakes on June 16. Honor in Peace won his maiden by five lengths on dirt at Churchill Downs on May 13 but is only 40-1 with Ladbrokes for the Coventry. He will be making his turf debut, as will all four of Ward's juvenile runners. John Velazquez will ride him as well as all of the other Ward trainees.

An hour after the Coventry, Ward will saddle Strike the Tiger in the listed, five-furlong Windsor Castle Stakes. The Tiger Ridge gelding won first time out by 3 3/4 lengths in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden in the Churchill slop on April 28.

On June 17, Ward sends out Jealous Again in the five-furlong Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. The Trippi filly won first time out going 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland, before finishing third to stablemate Aegean in the Grade 3 Kentucky Juvenile on April 30.

Ward will give Velazquez a leg up on 5o1/2-length Keeneland maiden winner Yogaroo in the five-furlong Group 2 Norfolk Stakes on June 18, which is Ladies Day at Ascot when as many as 75,000 racegoers, most of them fashionable young women, will swell the stands.

Aegean, the most accomplished of Ward's juveniles, will run in the six-furlong Group 3 Albany Stakes on June 19, in which she could meet Lillie Langtry, the Aidan O'Brien-trained winner of the Group 3 Naas Fillies Sprint Stakes on June 1.

Ward had all six of his American hopefuls training on the turf course at River Downs before their departure for England, describing the Cincinnati oval as "a miniature Belmont." One wishes him the best in his royal venture, but he will be doing very well if any one of his six can finish as high as fourth or fifth.

Velazquez is hoping to pick up some additional Royal Ascot rides and should be successful in that search as he is well known in England. As usual, O'Brien will be there with bells on. He dominated last year's meeting, winning four of the seven Group 1's as well as a Group 2. He is still hoping to get Yeats, the three-time winner of the 2 1/2-mile Ascot Gold Cup, into that race on June 18, although the grand 8-year-old son of Sadler's Wells ran poorly when sixth in a listed race in his return at Navan on April 26.

Gladiatorus, the sensational 3 1/4-length winner of the Dubai Duty Free, has been nominated for the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes on June 16, but is more likely to make his first start for Godolphin in the June 17 feature, the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes in which he could meet a pair of in-form French invaders in Vision d'Etat, the Eric Libaud-trained winner of the Group 1 Prix Ganay, and the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Never on Sunday, who beat Goldikova into seventh last time in the Prix d'Ispahan.

The June 19 feature, the one-mile Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, could turn out to be the race of the meeting. The three major 1000 Guineas winners, Ghanaati (English), Elusive Wave (French), and Again (Irish), are all being pointed to it. Also nominated is the late-developing Reggane, an Alain de Royer-Dupre trained daughter of Red Ransom who was second in the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham in just her second career start at Chantilly on May 31.

All 30 of the races at Royal Ascot will be presented live on TVG. The first post each of the five days is 9:30 a.m. Eastern.