Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Monday, May 26, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/26/2014 #
  • Lindy (left Sheldon Russell) & To Be Determined (Florent Geroux) prep for engagements at Royal Ascot (Michael Adolphson Photo)

In Today’s Notes: Ward Quartet Works for Royal Ascot; Ground Transport Works Bullet, Headed to Belmont Undercard

Trainer Wesley Ward sent out four Royal Ascot hopefuls Monday morning at Arlington International Racecourse for four-furlong drills over the world-renowned turf course.  Gatewood Bell’s Spanish Pipedream and Hootenanny – whom Ward owns in parternship with Ken Donworth and Ben McElroy – worked in tandem, while Ten Broeck Farm’s To Be Determined and Hat Creek Racing’s Lindy completed the second team. 

Last year, Ward used prep work over the local grass for No Nay Never en route to victory in the Group II Norfolk Stakes and subsequent glory in the Group I Prix Morny at Deauville.  Ward is also the only American conditioner to win a stakes on the Royal Ascot card – and has done so three times.  In addition to No Nay Never last year, he also annexed two fixtures on the 2009 card: the Group II Queen Mary with Jealous Again and Windsor Castle Stakes with Strike the Tiger. 

In Monday morning’s works, Spanish Pipedream (a daughter of No Nay Never’s sire Scat Daddy) and Hootenanny (from the highly anticipated first crop of Quality Road) drilled in :48.80 and :49, respectively.  Hootenanny is exiting a disappointing third-place run as the 3-5 favorite in Pimlico’s Rollicking Stakes. 

“Hootenanny is talented. Early on when he was breezing at Palm Meadows, he was good.  Then, when we put him on the grass he stepped up his game,” Ward explained.  “I talked myself into running him (at Pimlico), but I probably shouldn’t have.  I think he’ll be a quality stakes horse on grass or Poly.”

Spanish Pipedream broke her maiden at Keeneland April 24 and has a steady stream of works.  Owned by a partnership that includes Denver Bronco Wes Welker, the filly – like Lindy and To Be Determined – is highly regarded by Ward. 

“They’re not quite No Nay Never, but they really do stack up.  I think Spanish Pipedream is definitely better than Sweet Emma Rose and possibly as good or better than Jealous Again,” Ward explained.  Sweet Emma Rose was a solid second in last year’s Queen Mary.

In the second set, To Be Determined – the only maiden of the foursome – outworked Presque Isle Downs maiden winner Lindy by three lengths.  The duo received times of :48 and :48.60, respectively.  To Be Determined – under leading Arlington rider Florent Geroux – collared her rival turning for home and drew off impressively.  Despite being bested by her stablemate, Lindy – under Sheldon Russell – galloped out impressively past her stablemate, getting six furlongs in 1:14.  A daughter of the War Front wore a blinder on her right eye.

With four impressive youngsters stacked up and five stakes for juveniles at the Royal Ascot meeting – including three Group II fixtures: the Coventry, Queen Mary and Norfolk – Ward will have his work cut out for him when it comes to deciding who goes where.  “We are going to sort through everything here soon and see what fits best for each horse,” he concluded.  “We’ll see how we can divide and conquer.”

Mike Stidham-trained Ground Transport will attempt to do what his father Big Brown could not in 2008 – win at a mile and a half on Belmont Day.  Except, of course, that Ground Transport is a 4-year-old and thus will be competing in the Grade II $500,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on the undercard of the centerpiece event. 

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds et al, the dark bay has been burning up the track the last two weeks at Arlington International Racecourse as he prepares for his return to the Elmont, NY oval.  On Saturday morning (May 24), he hammered five furlongs in a bullet :59.80 and on May 16 went four furlongs in :47.80.  Last out, the grandson of endurance influence Broad Brush won the 10-furlong Drosselmeyer Stakes at ‘Big Sandy’ as a prep for the event. 

“He’s training really well and we’re on target for the Brooklyn,” Stidham said.  “The (Drosselmeyer) was a prep.  We didn’t realize how far he would go.  It was not obvious that he could get 10 furlongs, but he seemed to like the distance.  Johnny Velazquez, when he got off him after riding him for the first time, said he couldn’t wait to ride him going longer.”

Ground Transport has won three of his last four races, including two stakes.  In addition to the aforementioned Drosselmeyer, he was a notable wire-to-wire winner – drawing off by 3¼ lengths – in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park.  Since adopting a front-running style, he has accumulated a 7-3-3-0 record.