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Ward shoots for fourth Keeneland spring title

Today’s Keeneland media notes by the track’s PR staff (Wesley Ward photo by Coady Photography)

Keeneland-based trainer Wesley Ward will bid for his fourth consecutive training title of the track’s Spring Meet when the season opens Friday. Ward won the title last year with 20 wins, including four stakes, and is optimistic about how his stable will perform here this April. 

Can he top last year’s 20 wins, including four stakes?

“I’m feeling great,” Ward said. “We’ve got a lot of horses in various different categories – a lot of nice stakes horses. The 2-year-olds are always fun to see which ones blossom. This is the highlight of opening up my year to see how we’re going to progress. We’re really looking forward to it – as is everyone who comes to Keeneland in the spring. It’s a great place to be – the only place to be.”

On Saturday, Ward worked a number of horses in preparation for opening weekend.

On the fast main track, Gayla Rankin’s Central Bank Ashland (G1) hopeful, Happy Soul, covered 6 furlongs in 1:11.20. The filly has won her past three races, including the Feb. 19 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park. She won the 6-furlong stakes by 3 lengths as the even-money favorite.

Ward said Happy Soul will be ridden in the Central Bank Ashland by John Velazquez, who has been aboard the filly in all four of her races. Velazquez won the 2001 Ashland with Fleet Renee.

Working 5 furlongs on the turf course labeled good were Ward’s two 2021 Breeders’ Cup winners – Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Westerberg’s Golden Pal and Stonestreet Stables’ Twilight Gleaming (IRE) – who are preparing for their 2021 debuts on opening weekend.

Golden Pal (1:01.20), who won the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), is to run Saturday in the $350,000 Shakertown (G2).

Twilight Gleaming (1:01.40), who took last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, is to run Sunday in the $200,000 Palisades (L).

Another notable Ward turf worker was Stonestreet’s Campanelle (IRE), a two-time group winner at Royal Ascot in England (5 furlongs in 1:02.40). Ward said she would make her 2022 debut April 16 in the $200,000 Giant’s Causeway (L).

Campanelle won the 2020 Queen Mary (G2) and 2021 Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot.

“We’re focused on sending her back to Ascot – three in a row,” Ward said.

SATURDAY WORKERS INCLUDE BELL’S THE ONE

Lothenbach Stables’ Bell’s the One worked a half-mile in company in :49.60 over a fast track Saturday morning as she completed her major preparations for an expected run in next Saturday’s $500,000 Madison (G1). 

With jockey Corey Lanerie aboard, Bell’s the One started about 4 lengths in back of workmate Grove Daddy and was 3 lengths in front at the wire. 

“This is the first time I have been on her since November (when she won the Dream Supreme (L) at Churchill Downs),” Lanerie said. “She feels great and it is like she never missed a beat. Her last eighth this morning was :11.” 

Trainer Neil Pessin was happy with the 6-year-old mare’s return to Keeneland, where she was last seen winning the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) in October. 

“I didn’t want anything real fast,” Pessin said. “All of her major work was done at Fair Grounds (where she had eight works following a 2½-month break).” 

Bell’s the One, winner of the Lexus Raven Run (G2) here in 2019, has three Keeneland victories on her resume starting with an allowance score at the 2018 Fall Meet. Since that initial Keeneland victory, Bell’s the One has won nine stakes, five of which were graded, highlighted by the 2020 Derby City Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs. 

“From Day One, I thought she was a graded stakes filly,” Pessin said of his star, who has banked more than $1.5 million. “I just didn’t know she would be a Grade 1 filly.” 

Also working for Pessin was Brereton Jones’ Trobairitz, who covered 5 furlongs in 1:03.40 with Lanerie aboard in preparation for Saturday’s $400,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association going a mile on the turf. 

“She finished up well and if all is good tomorrow, we are ready to rock and roll,” Pessin said. “She is coming off two wins going 5½ (furlongs) and I know it’s a gamble, but I think she can get a mile.” 

Also working toward the Madison on Saturday was P. Dale Ladner’s Cilla, who covered a half-mile in :48.40 for trainer Brett Brinkman. The Louisiana-bred filly finished third in last fall’s Lexus Raven Run. 

Another work of note on the main track was Susan Evans and Cathy Sweezey’s Circle Back Jack (3 furlongs in :36.60) for the Palisades (L) for trainer Sarah Hamilton.  

GALLOPING OUT

Jockey Declan Cannon, who fractured three vertebrae in a spill last September at Horseshoe Indianapolis (formerly Indiana Grand), is back in action after nearly six months on the sidelines. 

“It’s good to be back,” said Cannon, who began galloping horses a month and a half ago first at Palm Meadows training center in Florida and then at Fair Grounds before coming back to Kentucky, where he has had five mounts in the past two weeks. “I’d better be (in racing shape). I’ve got three today at Turfway.” 

PROSPECTIVE FIELDS FOR OPENING-WEEKEND STAKES

The April 8-10 opening weekend of Keeneland’s 15-day Spring Meet features 10 stakes worth $4.55 million. 

According to Stakes Coordinator Baley Hare, here are the prospective fields:

April 8 races. Entries taken Tuesday.

$600,000 CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND (G1) – Awake At Midnyte (trainer Doug O’Neill), Cocktail Moments (Kenny McPeek), Happy Soul (Wesley Ward), Interstatedaydream (Brad Cox), Miss Mattie B (Bob Hess Jr.), Nest (Todd Pletcher).

$400,000 KENTUCKY UTILITIES TRANSYLVANIA (G3) – Coinage (Mark Casse), Credibility (Casse). Possible:Freedom’s Way (Eddie Kenneally), Red Danger (Brian Lynch).

$400,000 LAFAYETTE – Home Brew (Brad Cox), Ignitis (D. Wayne Lukas), Surfer Dude (Dallas Stewart), Tejano Twist (Bret Calhoun), Unified Report (Stewart). Possible: My Prankster (Todd Pletcher).

April 9 races. Entries taken Wednesday.

Keeneland will livestream the post position draw for the Toyota Blue Grass on Keeneland.com and Keeneland’s YouTube channel beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET.

$1 MILLION TOYOTA BLUE GRASS (G1) – Emmanuel (Todd Pletcher), Ethereal Road (D. Wayne Lukas), Fenwick (David Fisher), Golden Glider (Mark Casse), Grantham (Mike Maker), Smile Happy (Kenny McPeek), Volcanic (Casse), Zandon (Chad Brown). Possible: Blackadder (Rodolphe Brisset).

$500,000 MADISON (G1) – Bell’s the One (Neil Pessin), Center Aisle (Paulo Lobo), Cilla (Brett Brinkman), Club Car (Ben Colebrook), Just One Time (Brad Cox), Kimari (Wesley Ward), Lady Rocket (Cox).

$400,000 APPALACHIAN (G2) PRESENTED BY JAPAN RACING ASSOCIATION – Ouraika (FR) (Graham Motion), Spendarella (Motion), Trobairitz (Neil Pessin).

$350,000 SHAKERTOWN (G2) – Barraza (Vladimir Cerin), Beer Can Man (Phil D’Amato), Chess Master (Kerri Ravin), Filo Di Arianna (BRZ) (Mark Casse), Gear Jockey (Rusty Arnold), Golden Pal (Wesley Ward), Just Might (Michelle Lovell), Natural Power (IRE) (Jeff Hiles). 

$300,000 COMMONWEALTH (G3) – Long Range Toddy (Dallas Stewart), Manny Wah (Wayne Catalano), O Besos (Greg Foley). 

April 10 races. Entries taken Thursday.

$400,000 BEAUMONT (G3) PRESENTED BY KEENELAND SELECT – Matareya (Brad Cox).

$200,000 PALISADES (L) – Asymmetric (IRE) (Wesley Ward), Circle Back Jack (Sarah Hamilton), Twilight Gleaming (IRE) (Wesley Ward).

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Click here for Keeneland’s 2022 Media Guide.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.