The stars and stripes will be waving at Royal Ascot, with a 13-strong squad led by course specialist Lady Aurelia. Not surprisingly, the emphasis is on the meeting’s sprint events, and only two American-based runners are competing as far as a mile.
Here’s a brief overview of Team USA – consider it as an appetizer ahead of the feast.
Tuesday, June 19
The Bill Mott-trained YOSHIDA offers a rooting interest in the curtain-raising Queen Anne (G1), now a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry and Grade 1 heroine Hilda’s Passion compiled a promising sophomore campaign last season, but returned better than ever to upset Beach Patrol in the May 5 Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day.
Two races later in the King’s Stand (G1), defending champion LADY AURELIA looks to extend her record to a perfect three-for-three over this track and five-furlong trip. The Wesley Ward filly dazzled here in the 2016 Queen Mary (G2) at two and in last year’s King’s Stand over older males, but has to reassert herself after dropping her last three. Compatriot BUCCHERO takes his game abroad for the first time for fellow Indiana-bred Tim Glyshaw. Although winless since last October’s Woodford S. (G2) at Keeneland, the consistent type had Lady Aurelia behind him when he was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Wednesday, June 20
Ward has won the Queen Mary three times with precocious juvenile fillies, and Keeneland debut romper CHELSEA CLOISTERS appears to have the speed to give him a fourth in the Wednesday opener.
Stablemate HEMP HEMP HURRAY bookends the card in the concluding Jersey S. (G3) for three-year-olds over seven furlongs. An 11 3/4-length conqueror of Turfway Park’s Animal Kingdom S. last out, he’ll try to give Ken and Sarah Ramsey a long-coveted Royal Ascot victory. That’s why he’s likelier for this spot than his alternative target in a Friday Group 1.
Ward also plans to send out multiple stakes-winning four-year-old MASTER MERION in the Royal Hunt Cup, a heritage handicap down the straight mile course.
Thursday, June 21
The five-furlong Norfolk (G2) has added intrigue as a “Win and You’re In” for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Ward’s filly SHANG SHANG SHANG, a ready winner over stablemate MOONLIGHT ROMANCE in their mutual unveiling at Keeneland, is expected to line up versus the boys. Moonlight Romance subsequently dominated a Belmont Park maiden in her turf debut, looking like a natural on the surface, and her Royal Ascot placement is reportedly to be determined by Ramsey.
Friday, June 22
Yet to win the Albany (G3), a six-furlong event for two-year-old fillies, Ward has set STILLWATER COVE for the task after she just held on in her Keeneland premiere.
Todd Pletcher fields a contender for the Commonwealth Cup (G1), the meet’s marquee race for sophomore sprinters, in GIDU. Zayat Stables’ Irish-bred son of Frankel warmed up for the challenge with a score in Belmont’s Paradise Creek.
Saturday, June 23
Ward has the grand finale covered with runners in three events. OUR PASSION, successful in her debut on the Belmont turf, will aim to become his third winner of the Windsor Castle.
BOUND FOR NOWHERE seeks the Diamond Jubilee (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Fourth in last year’s Commonwealth Cup, he streaked clear of Bucchero in the Shakertown (G2) in his latest.
Finally, Ward’s 2015 Diamond Jubilee hero UNDRAFTED returns to the scene of his greatest triumph. But this time, the eight-year-old tries his luck in a heritage handicap, the course-and-distance Wokingham.
Watch this space all next week for Royal Ascot handicapping, and in the meantime, early previews of each day’s card will be available in the Brisnet.com Royal Ascot news section.
Lady Aurelia photo by Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com