Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited
LEXINGTON, Ky.—Trainer Wesley Ward is leaving nothing to chance this week as he prepares Golden Pal for his career finale in the Turf Sprint with what could be a record-tying third victory in the Breeders’ Cup. Rather than getting him out of the track at Keeneland as soon as it opens in morning, Ward is committed to having him take to the track for his daily exercise at the very end of training hours.
“I like to gallop him really, really late when no one’s on the track,” Ward said Tuesday. “He’s very, very relaxed when no one’s out there when he’s got the track to himself, as most horses are. You take him up there when horses are breezing and lots of gallopers, he kind of wants to go. In the next few days, we’re going to take him real, real late when essentially, he’ll be the only one galloping out there.”
Ward has often described the 4yo son of Uncle Mo as the best horse he has trained. Golden Pal, owned by the Coolmore partnership of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Westerberg, is 8-2-0 in 12 career starts. He snagged his first Breeders’ Cup victory in the 2020 Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland. Last year, he added the Turf Sprint to his resume. Should he repeat Saturday, he will join Hall of Famers Goldikova and Beholder as the only horses with three victories in the World Championships.
Breeders’ Cup week started well for Ward when Golden Pal and jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. drew post eight in the field of 14 going 5 ½ furlongs.
“I was very happy with his post,” Ward said. “Post eight, we’re out there a ways to where he can break and this way Irad will get a sense of what he wants to do. If he breaks as sharp as he usually does, he can kind of ease over to the rail. Or, if somebody catches a flyer and breaks like him Irad will be able to ride his race from there. I was really happy with his post.”
Golden Pal has raced at six tracks during his career and is unbeaten in four starts at Keeneland, where Ward’s stable is based. Ward said Golden Pal is doing well.
“We’re ready to roll,” Ward said. “He’s been pointing for this since last year’s race. This is a race that I asked Michael Tabor right after the horse crossed the finish line, we’re heading to the winner’s circle, if we could get one more year. Before we got on camera, I kind of wanted to pin him down a little bit. He didn’t see why not. So here we are today.”
Golden Pal has won five of his last six starts. The only blemish this year was in June in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. Typically, quick out of the gate, Golden Pal missed the break because Ortiz was distracted by a horse acting up behind the gate. It left him 0-for-3 tries in high-profile stakes in England, where Ward has a strong record of success.
“Just bad luck. It just goes to show you that in racing there’s so much luck involved that everything has to go right,” Ward said. “Unfortunately, this year when we went and that was going to be very big for him as a stallion, is if he could do it at Ascot in front of all the European breeders. I’ve never had anything like that happened to me and all these 30-plus years of training, Irad and I walked the course with Steve Cauthen. Steve gave him all the insights of Ascot Racecourse and The King’s Stand and everything that happens being a rider that this was brand new to him running there.
“I told him, ‘Look, you’ve got to be ready, almost like the Kentucky Derby. Like when those horses are in the gate the starter just pushes it, no matter if it’s a horse rearing up. What I’ve seen so many times that I’ve been over. It wouldn’t happen in the States, the way that the starter runs the course over there. So, there was an unruly 99-1 shot in the back of the gate and Irad was looking back. What he did not know is that the starter, at any time, can deem the horse out and just push the button and go. As Irad was looking completely back the starter pushed the button, ruled the horse as scratched. All the other riders know the rules and they were ready and Irad wasn’t. He almost fell off the horse, we broke dead last and that was it.”