Top American trainer Wesley Ward has six gee-gees racing at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup this weekend, and he’s given us the lowdown on each of his fancies. He says Judy The Beauty is his best chance of a festival winner in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Sheikh of Sheikhs is a huge price if he makes it into the Juvenile Turf, and why you should back Green Mask over Undrafted in the Turf Sprint on Saturday.
Ruby Notion – , Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, 8.50pm Friday
‘Ruby Notion has never raced at Keeneland but she has trained here her whole life. She breezes well on dirt, but she’s exceptional on the grass. The key with her is that she can go a mile, but it’s also an advantage that all the other riders and trainers will be looking at her form and seeing her blazing speed. So she should have an uncontested lead, and if she gets the first half mile in moderate fractions she’ll take them down to the wire. She’s a nice filly, the only question is the distance.’
Sheikh of Sheikhs – , Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, 7.30pm Friday
‘He had an exceptional breeze on the grass a week before he ran on the dirt here, but I’d say he prefers turf to dirt. If he does get into the race he has a big chance, as he’s a very classy colt. We won this race with Hootenanny 12 months ago, but Hootenanny was a little more seasoned.
‘Hootenanny was well-traveled and had run at a few different race tracks compared to Sheikhof Sheikhs who has pretty much trained his whole life at Keeneland. He was shipped up to Saratoga and ran a very fast time winning a contentious maiden race. He got back to Keeneland and we tried him over a mile in a Group 1 and it was a little too much to ask on his second start as he finished sixth. I think he’ll come back and vindicate himself, and really show what he can do. He’s a very talented horse and if he runs you need to keep your eye out for him.’
Judy The Beauty – , Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, 5.25pm Saturday
‘Judy The Beauty has never been as sound as she is now which is good. She’s a year older at six, so she may be a little over the top, but she should have won at Keeneland the other day. She was beaten a little over a length into third but she was unlucky as she was stuck on the inside and caught in traffic. She finished with speed to spare and came back with her ears pinned back. She pranced back into the barn and you could tell there was a lot of horse left in her. It was just unlucky that she was pinned onto the rail when she prefers to go around the outside. There was nothing jockey Mike Smith could do about it.
‘Now we’ve got the magic of Frankie Dettori on board and this is where Judy the Beauty has trained her whole life. She is going to be very, very tough to beat, and of all my runners, she has the best chance.’
Undrafted – , Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 4.45pm Saturday
‘Undrafted is training lights out right now. He can be fickle enough, so I have to time his races because he loses a bit of weight when he travels and runs in different jurisdictions and at different race tracks. But this is his home course. He only has to go from the stall, to the paddock, put the saddle on, and run. That makes him really tough to beat. The only worry is five and a half furlongs is a little short for him, so Frankie Dettori will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make sure Undrafted can weave his way through or around.’
Green Mask – , Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 4.45pm Saturday
‘Green Mask is training like a tiger. I think he’ll run out of his skin. The distance isn’t going to be a question for him, he’s probably better suited to five and a half furlongs than Undrafted. It’s a 14-horse field so a lot of it will come down to the trip, but Green Mask has a little bit more speed than Undrafted so can be a little bit more forward. Joel Rosario who rides him will have a bit more tactical speed to play with so can get up closer to the pace, or take a bit off the contentious pace which the race will certainly have. Green Mask has a better chance than Undrafted in this.’
The Great War – , Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, 4.45pm Saturday
‘Aidan O’Brien sent us The Great War after he finished fourth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile race last November. We were planning on going down the Derby path, but unfortunately he has a little bit of a bleeding issue and although we were treating him with Lasix to try to prevent this, he bled right out of his nostril after his run at Turfway Park in March. That was a big concern so we let his lungs heal up and brought him back with the aim of this race at the Breeders Cup. He’s probably back a little quick as he came third in a race at Woodbine just two weeks ago, but this is his home track where he has trained since arriving here. Hopefully he’ll raise his level of play a bit, and be right there in the mix.’