Ward Sends Out Impressive 2YO Duo in Closing Day Stakes

September 11, 2023

Bledsoe scores on debut April 7 at Keeneland (Coady Photography) 

By Tim Wilkin for Kentucky Downs

FRANKLIN, Ky.— Trainer Wesley Ward will have friends in high places watching a pair of his 2-year-olds run on Wednesday, closing day at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs.

In the eighth race, the $500,000, 6 ½-furlong Pepsi Juvenile Sprint for 2-year-old colts, Bledsoe, owned and trained by Ward, will run. The horse is named for former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

One race later, Song of Norway is entered to run in the $500,000, 6 1/2-furlong Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The daughter of Flatter is owned by Corey Johnsen’s CJ Thoroughbreds. Johnson is a former president of Kentucky Downs.

Both horses are getting respect on the morning line. Bledsoe is 9-2 and Song of Norway 4-1.

“There you go, it’s his track,” Ward said with a laugh, referring to Johnsen’s Song of Norway. “I was involved with Ben McElroy and purchased him for Corey last year.”

Song of Norway went for $130,000 at the 2022 Kentucky Yearling Sale and rolled to a 4 1/2-length win in her debut going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass at Ellis Park on Aug. 1.

Via @TVG on Twitter

She will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez on Wednesday.

“I always try to pick out horses that will, hopefully, make a race for him at his track,” Ward said. “He really likes to go down there and run.”

When Song of Norway came to Ward’s barn, he told Johnsen that the filly was fast. He said Song of Norway was ready to run, but not necessarily ready to win.

Johnsen gave Ward the time and the debut at Ellis went just the way Ward thought it would.

“She bounced out of there and kept widening,” Ward said. “I told Corey we’re off to his race there and I hope it all goes well for him.”

Bledsoe the quarterback, will not be at Kentucky Downs to watch his namesake run. From the start, Ward thought this son of Iqbaal was one of the more talented homebreds in the 2022 crop.

He won his first career start on April 7 at Keeneland by 1½ lengths with Joel Rosario in the saddle. He will be on board Wednesday.

Via @TwinSpires on Twitter

“From the first work on, he was always the most talented of the homebreds,” Ward said. “He was just much, much better. I have always thought even more of him than what he showed in the win.”

Bledsoe’s win came on the dirt at Keeneland at 4 1/2 furlongs. Ward always thought that Bledsoe would excel on grass and, right after that first race, he sent him to England to train with Ollie Sangster, the grandson of Robert Sangster, who has been called one of the most influential owner-breeders of all time.

Ollie Sangster, who had once worked for Ward, is in his first year of training. Ward said that if Sangster felt that Bledsoe was a horse that he thought might make it to the Royal Ascot, he would let him run him in his own name. 

Ward figured he owed young Sangster because of the hard work he had put in for him when he was in America.

Bledsoe, Ward said, was doing well enough that Sangster entered him in the Windsor Castle Stakes. It didn’t happen.

“Ollie called me and said something wasn’t quite right,” Ward said. “I thanked him, and we scratched and he came back home.”

After a minor issue, Bledsoe was back on his game and now here he is, at Kentucky Downs.

“He has really had some eye-opening breezes at Keeneland on the dirt,” Ward said. “We are looking forward to running him at Kentucky Downs.”

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