Ward: No excuses for Aurelia
View from connections ahead of the Connolly's Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
Lady Aurelia puts her unbeaten record on the line
Wesley Ward insists there will be "no excuses " for Lady Aurelia if she is unable to keep her unbeaten record intact in the Connolly's Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes.
The first American-based trainer to saddle a winner at Royal Ascot after scoring a double in 2009, Ward is rarely short of confidence, but seems particularly bullish about a filly in whom he appears to have unwavering faith.
Plenty of his imposing two-year-olds have shown devastating speed in Berkshire in mid-June, but none were quite as spectacular as Lady Aurelia in this year's Queen Mary Stakes, with her dominant seven-length win leaving even a jockey of Frankie Dettori's big-race experience to proclaim: "I've never felt anything like it before in my life."
In comparison, her assured triumph in last month's Prix Morny at Deauville was a little underwhelming, but having enjoyed a smooth preparation in Newmarket under Dettori's guidance, Ward – who arrived in the UK on Thursday morning – expects his star filly to return to her brilliant best on the Rowley Mile.
He said: "She looks fantastic and I think she's as good as we can have her. Frankie has helped us out a lot while I've been back home for the last few weeks and there will be no excuses come Saturday.
"The filly is getting older and faster. She's got three races under her belt and knows a lot more about racing now.
"She's had good spaces between her races and seems to have settled in well here at the National Stud, so we're really excited.
"The Cheveley Park Stakes is a very prestigious race. I've been waiting for the right filly to come along and I think we have her."
Despite his positivity, Ward insists he has the utmost respect for Lady Aurelia's rivals, with the Richard Fahey-trained Queen Kindly chief among them.
"You know going into any major race that the competition is going to be deep," said the trainer.
"I've read Richard Fahey's comments about his filly, who is sired by Frankel, and he seems pretty confident as well, which is great – it makes for good racing.
"May the best filly win and I wish them the best of luck, I just wish ourselves a little bit more luck."
Asked whether this will be Lady Aurelia's final appearance of 2016, Ward added: "We're looking at the Breeders' Cup, but we'll see how she comes out of the race on Saturday and how she travels back.
"We'll see how she performs and I'll have a meeting with the owners after the filly has arrived back home. We'll keep all options open."
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"Frankie is very keen on his filly, but we feel our filly has improved a lot physically since she ran at Royal Ascot. Our filly picks up well and quickens. We think we have a good chance of beating her but we'll see what happens."
Bruce Raymond on Queen Kindly
Having overseen all of Lady Aurelia's work since her arrival in Newmarket, Dettori feels she is better placed to show her true colours than she was in France in late August.
He told At The Races: "The ground was really horrible (at Deauville), she was taking on colts, it was a first run over six furlongs and she'd had a long flight from Keeneland. She was very tired, the filly.
"She got the job done and Group Ones are hard to win. She's had three weeks in Newmarket, she's recovered, put the weight back on and is training well.
"Fingers crossed she's going to put on a good show on Saturday."
Fahey is under no illusions as to the task facing Queen Kindly, who earned her shot at this race with an impressive success in the Lowther Stakes at York.
"We're happy with her and we'll see what happens," said the Musley Bank handler.
"The American filly is going to be hard to beat, but we'll give it a go. The ground should be fine, it should be beautiful ground. Overall they could probably do with a drop of rain to make sure it doesn't get too quick, but it won't bother her."
Bruce Raymond, racing manager for owner-breeder Jaber Abdullah, is "hopeful rather than confident" that Queen Kindly can see off her American challenger.
He said: "We're looking forward to it, of course. Frankie is very keen on his filly, but we feel our filly has improved a lot physically since she ran at Royal Ascot.
"I'm assuming Frankie is going to go quick and hopefully we can keep tabs on her without killing ourselves.
"I think the ground should be perfect for everyone. Obviously you have to contend with hills and things like that, but those are after-the-race excuses!
"Our filly picks up well and quickens, whereas the American filly is the total opposite and is all speed from the start. We think we have a good chance of beating her, but we'll see what happens.
"I'm hopeful rather than confident."
The Cheveley Park Stakes is one of the few top-level contests to so far elude Aidan O'Brien and he fires a twin assault in a bid to right that statistic.
Brave Anna beat Queen Kindly when winning the Albany Stakes at the Royal meeting, but has since been disappointing, while Roly Poly claimed the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes on the July Course before finding Queen Kindly too strong on the Knavesmire.
Michael O'Callaghan's Holy Cat also crosses the Irish Sea.
The daughter of Kitten's Joy made a big impression on her Leopardstown debut before chasing home O'Brien's Intelligence Cross in the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh.
"It's a big step up for her and she's only had the two starts," said O'Callaghan.
"When you win your maiden as easily as she did, you don't learn a lot and she showed her inexperienced in the Round Tower. It was her first run in a Group race, she was against the colts and got trapped out on the wing and ran green.
"It's a small but quality field on Saturday, but our filly has come on a lot from the Round Tower and the ground will suit her."
David Simcock's outsider Pellucid completes the six-strong field.
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