Ward's Golden Pal, Campanelle top American hopes at 2022 Royal Ascot

June 11th, 2022

Twelve-time Royal Ascot winner Wesley Ward returns to the June 14-18 meeting with Golden Pal and Campanelle leading his team. But other American-based horsemen are also taking the plunge.

Christophe Clement makes his first Royal Ascot appearance with a pair of contenders, including Breeders’ Cup winner Pizza Bianca, who is set to square off against Graham Motion’s Spendarella. Rusty Arnold sends promising juveniles Late September for the Coventry (G2) and Grand Oak for the Queen Mary (G2), where she is expected to take on Ward's Love Reigns.

Here’s how the American-based hopes are shaping up, by day:

Golden Pal – King’s Stand (G1), Tuesday, June 14

Ward has described Golden Pal as the best horse he’s ever trained. The son of Uncle Mo and high-class Lady Shipman has lived up to that lavish praise in all of his stateside turf starts, most memorably in the Breeders’ Cup. The 2020 Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) hero joined the exclusive club of horses to win two different Breeders’ Cup events with his brilliant display in last fall’s Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar. And he’s picked up right where he left off by running away with the April 9 Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland.

Yet Golden Pal has not looked the same horse in his two attempts on British soil. In the 2020 Norfolk (G2) over this course and five-furlong distance, he blasted to his customary lead, but tread water late and got worn down by The Lir Jet. Perhaps that could be chalked up to a combination of inexperience and good-to-soft going, although Ward has said how well he trains over rain-softened turf at Keeneland.

Golden Pal fared even worse in last summer’s Nunthorpe (G1) on good-to-firm at York, where Ward was expecting a bold show. Again showing his warp early speed, he couldn’t sustain it and folded to seventh, beaten five lengths by Winter Power in the only poor effort of his life. Ward wondered if Golden Pal were looking for a turn, or possibly had a breathing issue, or if he just ran back too quickly after his comeback score in the Quick Call (G3) at Saratoga.

The King’s Stand will give a mature Golden Pal the opportunity to prove that he can bring his A-game down a straightaway. Still, he could be most effective around a turn, and that’s a factor for bettors to consider before backing him at a short price.

Late September – Coventry (G2), Tuesday, June 14

Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh reports that Late September is joining the raiding party. Trained by Arnold, whose Artos was a fine fourth in last year’s Queen Mary (G2), the juvenile colt will be trying turf and six furlongs for the first time in the Coventry (G2).

Late September’s pedigree suggests turf aptitude, as a son of Munnings and Hello Maggie May, a stakes victress on both turf and all-weather at Woodbine. The Lemon Drop Kid mare is out of Canadian champion two-year-old filly Fantasy Lake, who is also the granddam of multiple Group 3 scorer and 2010 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) runner-up Free Judgment.

Bred by Coteau Grove Farms in Louisiana, Late September sold to Dew Sweepers for $60,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He was also unveiled at Keeneland April 20, winding up fourth after hopping at the start.

Late September improved next time out at Churchill Downs on May 20, in another 4 1/2-furlong maiden. The 2.30-1 chance settled in third before delivering a strong rally to get up in :52.05. The half-length margin doesn’t reflect how convincingly he won, although he’s obviously taking a substantial class hike in the Coventry.

Love Reigns & Grand Oak – Queen Mary (G2), Wednesday, June 15

Ward has won this five-furlong dash for juvenile fillies four times, and he nearly added to his total when Twilight Gleaming went close last year. Judging by how Love Reigns captured her debut at Keeneland, he might not have to wait much longer for number five.

From the first crop of brilliant European champion U S Navy Flag (by War Front), Love Reigns wasn’t quickest from the gate in the 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, but the 2.20-1 favorite soon sprinted to the fore. Even better for her Royal Ascot prospects, Love Reigns extended her advantage in the stretch and crossed the wire 9 3/4 lengths clear in a time of 1:02.33. According to Daily Racing Form, that’s the fastest time posted by a juvenile over the course and distance.

Like 2020 Queen Mary winner Campanelle, Love Reigns is an Irish-bred purchased by Stonestreet Stables from a European yearling sale. Agent Ben McElroy secured her for $186,832 at Goffs Orby, compared to the $244,068 commanded by Campanelle at Tattersalls October. Interestingly, Love Reigns has more stamina in her pedigree as a half-sister to 2018 Sword Dancer (G1) scorer Glorious Empire.

While Love Reigns has long been known as a Queen Mary contender, the Arnold-trained Grand Oak is a later addition to the picture. Like stablemate Late September in the Coventry, she is a Dew Sweepers colorbearer who lost on debut at Keeneland before breaking her maiden at Churchill. But Grand Oak did so on turf, giving her experience on the surface that Late September lacks.

Bred in Ireland by SF Bloodstock, Grand Oak is a $105,000 Keeneland September purchase. The Speightstown filly was produced by the stakes-placed Lady Oak, whose parents both peaked as juveniles. Lady Oak’s sire, Arcano, was an unbeaten Prix Morny (G1) winner, and her dam, Lady of Kildare, landed the Curragh’s Round Tower S. at two.

The word was out on Grand Oak as she went off as the 11-10 favorite at Keeneland, in a 4 1/2-furlong dash on dirt April 21. Drawn on the rail, she was a bit slow to get organized out of the gate, and appeared to be climbing at one point when buried behind foes on the backstretch. Grand Oak regrouped once angling into the clear, and despite racing greenly, she finished strongly to place a clear second to Crackalacking.

Switching to turf at Churchill May 20, the 7-5 favorite broke like a shot and grabbed the early lead. Ward’s Cowichan pressed through an opening quarter in :22.44 and briefly headed her on the far turn, but Grand Oak re-asserted on the inside down the lane. She readily put the Ward filly away by the half in :45.52, drew off by 4 1/4 lengths, and polished off five furlongs in :57.81.

Seismic Spirit – Windsor Castle S., Wednesday, June 15

Although Seismic Spirit was just mugged in his debut at Churchill Downs, that’s not necessarily a hindrance for a Ward juvenile here. In 2015, Acapulco arrived at Royal Ascot as the well-beaten favorite in her unveiling on the Churchill dirt, then broke her maiden emphatically in the Queen Mary.

Another Stonestreet acquisition from the Emerald Isle, Seismic Spirit brought $115,770 at the Goffs Sportsman’s Yearling Sale. His sire, Belardo, was Europe’s champion juvenile on the strength of his 2014 Dewhurst (G1) victory, and he went on to take the 2016 Lockinge (G1) and placed second to Tepin in the Queen Anne (G1). Seismic Spirit’s dam, Tough Spirit, is a daughter of Iffraaj and multiple Group 3-placed stakes scorer One Spirit.

Sent off as a 5.90-1 chance in a five-furlong turf maiden May 19, Seismic Spirit dashed to the lead, shrugged off a challenger who briefly headed him on the far turn, and kicked away again down the lane. But he couldn’t hold off the sustained rally of 11-10 favorite Cadillac Candy, who nailed him at the wire in :57.90. Cadillac Candy was favored following his debut second to Andthewinneris (profiled below).

Seismic Spirit needs to find more to prevail in the Windsor Castle. Ward has won this five-furlong affair twice, but not since Hootenanny in 2014. Also, for whatever it’s worth, he initially had No Nay Hudson penciled in for this spot before opting for the June 9 Tremont S. at Belmont.

Note that Seismic Spirit was also given an entry in Thursday's Norfolk (G2), so keep an eye out for possible developments during the week. 

Pizza Bianca & Spendarella – Coronation (G1), Friday, June 17

While Pizza Bianca sports smart international form courtesy of her Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) score, Spendarella brings a perfect record into her biggest career test. Both have global pedigrees: Pizza Bianca is a blueblood daughter of Fastnet Rock, and Spendarella is by French-based Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Karakontie.

Pizza Bianca has never finished worse than second. Runner-up to Godolphin shipper Wild Beauty in last fall’s Natalma (G1), Pizza Bianca was also second in her comeback in the April 24 Memories of Silver S. at Aqueduct. That slowly-run, small-field affair did not set up for her at all, but she rebounded with an honest tempo in the May 20 Hilltop S. at Pimlico.

The dynamics at Ascot figure to suit, and Pizza Bianca has already beaten one of the principals. Cachet, who set the pace in the Juvenile Fillies Turf before being swamped late in fourth at Del Mar, has since gone close to a classic double. Wiring the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket, Cachet was just headed by Mangoustine in the French equivalent.

The rub is that Cachet’s overall form is not as compelling as Homeless Songs, the star of the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), or returning juvenile champion Inspiral, who top the antepost market for the Coronation. If that’s a scruple hovering over Pizza Bianca, it’s a downright question mark over Spendarella, who’s yet to face this caliber of opposition.

Spendarella has tactical speed as well as proficiency in conditions ranging from firm at Gulfstream Park to a rain-affected good at Keeneland. A front-running winner of the Herecomesthebride (G3), she prompted a slow tempo before quickening clear in the Appalachian (G2).

Spendarella’s main talking point is Motion’s willingness to attempt the Coronation. The English-born horseman has yet to win at Royal Ascot, but two of his best results have come in this race. Sharing placed second in 2020, although her status as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner is more of a signal for Pizza Bianca. Miss Temple City, fourth in the 2015 Coronation, returned to take fourth again in the 2016 Duke of Cambridge (G2).

Slipstream – Commonwealth Cup (G1), Friday, June 17

Clement nominated a trio of sophomores for this six-furlong prize, including Big Invasion who rolled in the May 29 Paradise Creek S., so it’s noteworthy that Slipstream is the one to carry the stable’s hopes. The son of renowned international sire More Than Ready has some intriguing, if inconclusive, formlines.

Slipstream was a last-to-first winner of the 2021 Futurity (G3) that earned him a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. But Clement didn’t think that the colt would enjoy a five-furlong scramble around Del Mar. Instead he tried a mile in the Juvenile Turf (G1) and wound up sixth, beaten three lengths by Godolphin’s future French classic hero Modern Games.

Reverting to one turn in the April 10 Palisades S. at Keeneland, Slipstream delivered a Futurity-like rally to collar the odds-on Twilight Gleaming. She had taken the Juvenile Turf Sprint in her prior start over a few smart European colts. Juvenile Turf Sprint runner-up Go Bears Go came back to capture the April 27 Pavilion (G3) at Ascot, and also-ran Twilight Jet sped home in the May 15 Lacken (G3). Both are proper Commonwealth Cup contenders, so Slipstream has notable collateral form through Twilight Gleaming.

The Palisades result doesn’t mean we should play the Breeders’ Cup what-if card for Slipstream, since conditions were much more in his favor than Del Mar would have been. Twilight Gleaming had to negotiate an extra half-furlong while making her sophomore bow in the Palisades. Back at a flat five in the May 14 Mamzelle S. at Churchill Downs, she held on. Her distance limitations have persuaded Ward to look at Glorious Goodwood’s King George (G2) rather than the stiffer track at Ascot. In contrast, Slipstream’s penchant for whirlwind finishes implies that he could cope with the straightaway.

Ruthin – Palace of Holyroodhouse, Friday, June 17

Ruthin was also made eligible for the King’s Stand and Commonwealth Cup, but Ward is reportedly pointing for this handicap. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is five furlongs like the King’s Stand, while being restricted to three-year-olds like the Commonwealth Cup.

The Stonestreet filly was a sensational, six-length debut winner on the Keeneland turf in 2021, stamping herself as a leading candidate for the Queen Mary. After she was outworked by stablemate Twilight Gleaming, though, Ward rerouted her to the Windsor Castle. Her training proved to be an omen, for Ruthin tired to seventh as the 3-1 Windsor Castle favorite. Yet she ran better than the bare result in a race that split into two groups on either side of the course. In front much of the way on the stands’ side, she crossed the wire a close fourth in her group, just a length behind the best finisher on that side.

Ruthin wasn’t seen again until resurfacing this spring in the April 15 Limestone S., over the same course and distance as her maiden win, and she rebounded in front-running fashion as an 8.10-1 shot. Fending off a bid from favored stablemate Her World, Ruthin just lasted by a neck from the flying Derrynane. Both Her World and Derrynane had been under Royal Ascot consideration as well.

Off that evidence, this five-furlong test might be about as far as Ruthin wants to go on a straightaway. On the other hand, the daughter of top miler Ribchester could move forward. Extrapolating from last year’s Windsor Castle, where she performed creditably if perhaps not at the top of her game, an in-form Ruthin is eligible to do better here.

Campanelle – Platinum Jubilee (G1), Saturday, June 18

Campanelle aims to become the first American shipper to win three times at Royal Ascot, a feat that eluded past Ward superstar Lady Aurelia. Yet Campanelle has always been a different type, and she enters in much better form than Lady Aurelia did in her four-year-old campaign.

When landing the Queen Mary as a juvenile, Campanelle beat a very smart opponent, Sacred, who would go on to burnish her resume. Unlike Lady Aurelia, Campanelle had the scope to go further, and she accordingly found six furlongs to be her optimal trip. The Kodiac filly hinted as much in the Prix Morny (G1), driving to a more convincing victory than Lady Aurelia had in the same Deauville feature for two-year-olds. Hence Ward opted to try Campanelle at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, which turned out to be a bridge too far as she wound up fourth.

Her 2021 Royal Ascot ambitions therefore centered on the Commonwealth Cup. Campanelle missed her intended tune-up, however, and ended up going in straight off the bench. That was quite a tall order, especially for a six-furlong slog on heavy ground. So it was to Campanelle’s enormous credit that she battled hard, even as Dragon Symbol bumped and herded her. Dragon Symbol prevailed narrowly as the first-past-the-post, but Campanelle suffered interference that likely cost her more than the head margin between them. The stewards saw it the same way, accordingly disqualifying Dragon Symbol and promoting Campanelle to the victory.

The rest of her sophomore season was forgettable. Out of sorts when rearing in the gate in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1), Campanelle trailed home an uncharacteristic last. Her homecoming was frustrating as well, as she got going too late in third in Keeneland’s Franklin County (G3).

But Campanelle kicked off 2022 on the best possible note, by outclassing the field in the April 16 Giant’s Causeway S. back at Keeneland. With the benefit of a prep under her belt, Campanelle could be sitting on a big effort in the Platinum Jubilee over the same distance as her Commonwealth Cup.

Update on Andthewinneris

Susan Moulton’s well-regarded homebred Andthewinneris was initially set for a Royal Ascot venture as well, but connections ultimately decided against making the trip with the juvenile. 

“We want to win the Breeders’ Cup with him, it’s as simple as that,” trainer Wayne Catalano told NYRA publicity June 9.

“The owners thought it through and decided not to go to England, and the horse is doing great. He is a really talented horse, and I don’t rule out trying the dirt with him once somewhere along the line, but our goal is the Breeders’ Cup and we’ll figure out how to get there. There’s Saratoga, Woodbine, and Churchill races in the meantime to look at this summer and fall.”

The aptly-named colt by Oscar Performance became his freshman sire’s first winner, in style, at Keeneland April 28. Andthewinneris was slow into stride in the 5 1/2-furlong turf maiden, but the 4.10-1 chance showed nifty gears to advance on the inside on the turn, tip out, and mow them all down. Flavien Prat still had the bay well in hand as they galloped home by two lengths in 1:03.85.