Campanelle seeking Ascot hat-trick in Platinum Jubilee
With a dozen winners at the showpiece meeting already under his belt and fast ground forecast, Ward returned to Berkshire with a small but select squad and high hopes of adding to his tally.
But the Washington-born trainer’s week got off to a nightmare start, with team captain Golden Pal blowing his chance at the start in Tuesday’s King’s Stand, while the following afternoon the well-fancied Love Reigns had to make do with an honourable fourth in the Queen Mary.
Reflecting on Golden Pal’s performance, Ward said: “You train them right down to the when the man says go and something like that happens and you’re done, especially with a horse like that.
“We wanted to jump out and get two or three in front and then hopefully ease back and then it would have been a race home – that would have been great to see. But take nothing away from the winner (Nature Strip), who ran great – I have the utmost respect for him.”
The difference with Campanelle, of course, is she has already proven her liking for Ascot – winning the Queen Mary two years ago and getting the Commonwealth Cup in the stewards’ room 12 months ago after a pulsating duel with Dragon Symbol.
Ward, who won the 2015 renewal of this race, when it was run as the Diamond Jubilee, with Undrafted, is expecting the four-year-old to make her presence felt in the final day feature.
He said: “She’s doing phenomenal, she’s a dual winner here so we know she likes the course and all.
“Hopefully we can move on from previous bad luck and move forward with her.”
The hot favourite for the Platinum Jubilee is Home Affairs, who will bid to complete a huge sprint double for Australian trainer Chris Waller following the stunning victory of Nature Strip in the King’s Stand.
Home Affairs touched off his stablemate in the Group One Lightning Stakes in February and Waller is anticipating a bold showing, having saddled Brazen Beau to finish second to Undrafted seven years ago.
He said: “Brazen Beau was a good Australian sprinter, a young horse with a similar profile to Home Affairs. We almost got it right with Brazen Beau and we will try to get it right this time.
“I feel with Home Affairs, after his dominant win the Coolmore Stud Stakes, that he is very good over 1200 metres (six furlongs) provided he settles, and we have done a lot of work with him on that
“I loved his jump out at Flemington before getting on the plane – he relaxed very quickly, which is what he will have to do to win.”
Home Affairs is one of two Australian-trained runners along with Artorius, who finished third behind his compatriot in October.
Sam Freedman, who trains Artorius in partnership with his father Anthony, expects his charge to be doing his best work at the finish.
He said: “He’s a hold-up horse who doesn’t have any early speed out of the gates really, he sort of falls out and it’s been to his detriment in Australia because you want to be up with the pace generally to feature, particularly on the tight track.
“He’s performed well from six to eight furlongs, he’s got form over a mile which I think will stand him in good stead over a testing six furlongs at Ascot. He just needs good pace in the race and a fair track, in Australia you can have a bit of a bias where you need to be up with the pace.
“The tracks in Australia just probably don’t suit him as he just needs a bit of time. I think he just lacks a bit of that tactical speed and when you watch his replays, he’s always finishing hard but he just runs out of time.
“If he’s going to win it, it won’t be until late. We went for Jamie Spencer for a reason, as he has such a good record on backmarkers at Ascot.”
One of the leading hopes for the home team is John Quinn’s Highfield Princess, who won the Buckingham Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting 12 months ago and returns at the top of her game after winning the Duke of York last month.
Quinn said: “She’s in very good form, obviously she’s a course winner and her last run was very good.
“Obviously it’s a very spicy race, but she’s in good nick and we’re hoping for a good run.
“She has form on all ground. You’d hope it wouldn’t get rattling, but it looks like it’s been very decent ground all week, so fingers crossed.”
The William Haggas-trained Sacred has been off the track since winning Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes in August, but connections are not too worried about the lack of a recent run.
Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “They are forecasting some potential rain on Saturday, which I’m hoping doesn’t appear for her as she likes top of the ground.
“It’s a tough race, but she’s a filly that we believe will be suited by a fast pace and we’ll learn a bit more about her – whether she can step up to a mile at some point in the future, we’ll see.
“This has always been her target and she runs well fresh, that’s always been our thought. When she won the Nell Gwyn she was fresh and she won first time out as a two-year-old.”
Minzaal is fitted with cheek pieces for the first time by Owen Burrows after finishing third to Highfield Princess at York, while Ado McGuinness saddles dual Group One winner A Case Of You.
He said: “He’s a great horse to travel, we’re very happy with him and fingers crossed he’ll put up a good show.
“We’re drawn over in 27, so hopefully there’ll be plenty of pace our side and we’ll see what happens.
“We’re happy we’re running here instead of the King’s Stand and we’re looking forward to it.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox