Wesley Ward is familiar with talented juveniles in his care, including the recently retired Lady Aurelia, who earned Cartier Horse of the Year honors as a 2-year-old. On Saturday he saddled another filly with plenty of potential to win the first running of the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes.
Looking ahead, Moonlight Romance is just another possible runner in a new Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint division that seems tailor-made for the trainer, who's known for getting his young horses to win on grass.
“I think it’s great,” he said of the division's growth. “I had a bunch of them that were eligible but now they got quite a few (preps) coming up here in a month, so I’ll try to divide them on out. Hope I picked the right one today.”
That, Ward said just before Moonlight Romance ran at Kentucky Downs, where the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned filly returned from Ascot to be a winning favorite. Ward said he would ideally train the daughter of Liaison up to the Breeders’ Cup, believing she’ll have enough earnings make the field.
“We’re going to prep them all now at Royal Ascot and bring them to Kentucky Downs, the way it is working out,” the trainer joked.
Another juvenile filly in Ward’s care, Shang Shang Shang, already earned an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint when she shipped to Royal Ascot and won the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes.
Moonlight Romance’s Royal Ascot trip did not go as well in the Windsor Castle Stakes. With another filly losing a shoe prior to the start and the race being delayed, Ward said Moonlight Romance got “hot and nervous” waiting behind the gate, only managing 13th that day.
Although the Kentucky Downs race was not a Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifier, Ward said he has several others pointing to those upcoming races.
Three U.S. races have been added as Breeders’ Cup qualifiers in the Juvenile Turf Sprint division. The Speakeasy Stakes runs at Santa Anita Park Oct. 6 and two more run Oct. 7 – the Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland and The Futurity at Belmont Park.
Mae Never No, another 2-year-old filly in Ward’s care, was a seven-length winner in a sloppy, off-the-turf Colleen Stakes last out. Scratched from the Kentucky Downs race, she is possible for the Speakeasy.
Ward also trains Stillwater Cove and Chelsea Cloisters, the one-two pair from the Bolton Landing Stakes.
“We’ll see how it goes when we get closer to all the Win and You’re Ins coming up,” he said. “From Santa Anita, to Belmont, to opening weekend at the meet at Keeneland,” he said, “so we’ll see which way we go. I’ve got quite a few.”