Wesley Ward at Keeneland. Coady Photography
Trainer follows three-win Wednesday with two-win Thursday
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Friday, Sept. 11, 2020) — Trainer Wesley Ward had this to say the morning after he won three races Wednesday to take the training lead at Kentucky Downs through the second day of the six-date meet: “Tell ’em now we’re getting serious.”
Ward, who last year tied for the Kentucky Downs training title with four wins, was laughing but apparently not kidding. He went out to win two more races Thursday, putting him at five halfway through the meet. That puts him three ahead of his closest rivals: Chad Brown, all-time Kentucky Downs win leader Mike Maker and Brad Cox. Ward — a four-time Kentucky Downs meet titlist including in a three-way tie last year with Joe Sharp and Ian Wilkes at four wins apiece— has seven horses left to run in stakes and 15 horses overall entered for the remaining three days.
The jockey-turned-trainer figures to be a major presence in three of Saturday’s five stakes on the marquee Calumet Farm Day at the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs. That includes running 2018 Tourist Mile winner Bound for Nowhere in the $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint, whose winner gets a fees-paid spot in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade 1) on Nov. 7 at Keeneland as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series’ “Win and You’re In” program.
The barn also holds a strong hand as Ward attempts to remain the only trainer to win the $500,000 Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint, having taken the first two runnings with the fillies Moonlight Romance and Cambria. This time Ward sends out a pair of talented 2-year-old colts who both figure to be well-bet: 2-1 favorite Outadore and 5-2 second choice Fauci.
Ward has Kimari and Mentality entered in the $500,000, Grade 3 Real Solution Ladies Sprint. Kimari also is entered in Sunday’s $400,000 Music City for 3-year-old fillies and Wednesday’s closing-day $500,000, Grade 3 Franklin-Simpson Stakes.
What will determine where Kimari runs? “The easiest spot,” Ward said cheerfully. “I’ll get a chance to look at them all and we’ll make a decision.”
The Ward-trained Red Ghost is the 3-1 favorite in Sunday’s $400,000 Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old filly sprinters. Maven, whom Ward sent to France last year to win a Group 2 in his second start, also is in the Franklin-Simpson at 6 1/2 furlongs.
Here’s a closer look at Ward’s stakes contingent:
Bound for Nowhere: The 6-year-old horse is the co-5-1 third choice with Front Run the Fed and Kanthaka behind 9-2 favorite and 2019 winner Totally Boss in what should be an amazing betting race. Bound for Nowhere has two narrow defeats in his two 2020 starts, second by a head in Santa Anita’s Grade 3 San Simeon in March and third by a neck in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Shakertown a month ago.
“I was just looking at the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup early in the year and I thought that I better center in on the Sprint, because I think that’s what he’s best at,” Ward said. “So that’s why I kept him sprinting. He’s doing great. He’s a fast horse. He never had the leave the state after the Santa Anita stakes, so I’m looking for a big race from him.”
Ward also is Bound for Nowhere’s owner. After Bound for Nowhere won the 2018 Tourist Mile in his first attempt at farther than six furlongs, Ward said, “My son called me from the University of Miami. He’s on a full-ride scholarship from the Bank of Dad. So I said he’s good again for next year.”
With son Riley still in college and daughter Denae now also at the U, Ward is hoping his “house” horse came come through again.
“You got that right,” said the proprietor of Bank of Dad. “And now I’ve got my daughter, too. We really need him to come through.”
Kimari and Mentality: Kimari is the Royal Ascot-to-Kentucky Downs betting angle for Ward runners. That was in play when Bound for Nowhere won the 2018 Tourist Mile and Moonlight Romance captured the inaugural 2-year-old turf sprint the same year in their next start after defeats in England’s premier race meet, with Ward quipping: “We’re going to prep them all now at Royal Ascot and bring them to Kentucky Downs, the way it is working out.”
Kimari powered from 11th of 16 late in the race to be second in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup won by Golden Horde. “She got left at the gate,” Ward said. “Take nothing away from the winner, but I wish we could have broke with him. I think we’d have been around there at the end in front. But she ran a great race.”
In her only other start this year, Kimari won Oaklawn’s $100,000 Purple Martin sprint stakes in the slop. Kimari had a banner 2-year-old season, winning her debut at Keeneland by 15 lengths, finishing a close second (out of 25) in Royal Ascot’s Group 2 Queen Mary and taking stakes at Saratoga and Keeneland against boys before being a late-running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2).
While Kimari could run elsewhere, Mentality is a go for the Real Solution Ladies Sprint. Wonderfully consistent, the 5-year-old mare is 5-3-3 in 15 starts, including a second to Dalika (who on Monday won Kentucky Downs’ One Dreamer Stakes) at Churchill Downs and a win in a New York-bred stakes in her two starts this year.
“She’s a nice, hard-knocking filly, better this year than she’s ever been,” Ward said.
2-year-old sprinters: Outadore won his debut with style at Saratoga and scratched out of last Monday’s $500,000 Juvenile for the 6 1/2-furlong affair Bal a Bali Juvenile Turf Sprint. Fauci, a son of the Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon and named for Dr. Tony Fauci, has raced three times: a second on dirt in his debut at Belmont, a Keeneland maiden win over yielding turf and second in Saratoga’s Skidmore Stakes on firm turf.
“Fauci has a little more experience, but Outadore has probably a little bit more on the talent side if you evaluate Beyer (speed figure) numbers and all,” Ward said. “But they’re pretty close, I’ll tell you that.”
Ward thinks Red Ghost, his entry in Sunday’s $400,000 Untapable Stakes, might be better than even her promising male stablemates. That daughter of the Adena Springs stallion Ghostzapper has raced just once, winning an off-the-turf sprint at Saratoga by 8 1/2 lengths. Red Ghost is owned by breeder Douglas Scharbauer, the son of the late Clarence Scharbauer, the Texas oilman and rancher who raced 1987 Kentucky Derby and 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Alysheba.
“She’s a very talented filly,” Ward said. “I think she’s going to have a big, big future. Maybe even more talented than both those colts.”