US trainer Wesley Ward has become synonymous with Royal Ascot over the last decade and more and he will be hoping to add to his dozen-strong tally of winners come the 2023 meeting.
Ward's forte is in masterminding the path of prodigious sprinters and he appears to have a ready-made Norfolk Stakes contender in the form of American Rascal.
|Where||Royal Ascot, Ascot Racecourse|
|When||2.30, Thursday 22nd June, 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 live Sports Streaming, ITV, Sky Sports Racing|
Being the first foal from the brilliant Lady Aurelia carried a healthy amount of pressure for American Rascal before he ever set foot on the racecourse.
He coped admirably with those expectations at Keeneland in late April, romping home by more than 10-lengths in just over 51 seconds for the 4½-furlongs on the dirt under Joel Rosario.
The time was the fastest of the meet for the distance covered. Ward typically suggested his colt 'can be better next time' he sets foot on a racetrack and that 'next time' looks very likely to be at Royal Ascot in June, where the Norfolk Stakes is a target sure to be glistening in the British sunshine.
Ward has won the Norfolk twice with No Nay Never in 2013 and Shang Shang Shangin 2018.
In Lady Aurelia's debut in April 2016 – also at Keeneland – she won by 7½ lengths and in a then track-record time of 50.85 for the 4½ furlong distance.
Mention the name of Wesley Ward to most Royal Ascot followers and the horse that comes to mind immediately is Lady Aurelia.
As a juvenile she lined up in the Queen Mary Stakes and routed the field to come home seven-lengths ahead of her nearest rival under Frankie Dettori in one of the most spell-binding speed displays witnessed this century.
She came back in 2017 and mixed it in open Group 1 company when winning the King's Stand Stakes – while that same summer was agonisingly denied in the Nunthorpe at York by Sir Mark Prescott's Marsha in a race that sparked the famous "Frankie thinks he's won…I'm not so sure" line from commentator Richard Hoiles as they crossed the line with Dettori's arm aloft.
Lady Aurelia was back at Royal Ascot in 2018 but could only finish seventh in the King's Stand as Blue Point and Battaash fought out the finish and that proved to be her final outing.
Royal Ascot: Profiles
Horse Racing: Royal Ascot moments
Dating back to Strike The Tiger's victory in the Windsor Castle Stakes in 2009, Ward has won 12 races at Royal Ascot in total.
They include four wins in the Queen Mary with the likes of Jealous Again (2009), Acapulco (2015) and Campanelle (2020) alongside Lady Aurelia as well as a Diamond Jubilee win in 2015 with Undrafted and Commonwealth Cup glory in 2021 via Campanelle.
Like Lady Aurelia and Campanelle before him, American Rascal will be wearing the yellow and red silks of Stonestreet Stables when he makes his Ascot bow.
By mid-May, Ward was certainly happy with how his young horse had progressed since his Keeneland win and, after confirming the Norfolk as the intended target he left the European trainers in no doubt as to his intentions.
"We're coming for you! We'll probably get there a little early, just after the first week in June," said the bullish trainer.
"We'll have a workout or two on English soil, everybody over here is all smiles and very, very excited for this."
Become a member of the world's favourite online sports betting brandJoin Now
Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of qualifying bets. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.