American trainer Wesley Ward retains Lady Aurelia faith
Last Updated: 17/04/18 2:47pm
Wesley Ward remains confident Lady Aurelia will put up a staunch defence of her crown in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot - despite suffering a surprise defeat on her return to action over the weekend.
The daughter of Scat Daddy was a brilliant winner at the Royal meeting last summer, her second success at the showpiece meeting, having landed the Queen Mary in spectacular fashion in 2016.
She was a warm order to make a successful start to the campaign in Saturday's Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland, a Listed prize she claimed last year, but was mowed down late by Triple Chelsea.
Ward told Press Association Sport: "I'm very happy with how she has come out of the race. We trotted her up the next morning and she's 100 per cent sound.
"We want to win with every horse we put a saddle on and with a filly of this calibre and filly held in such high esteem, it's a bit of a let-down when they get beaten, especially for those people watching."
The American trainer is keen not to make too many excuses for his star filly, but felt there were extenuating circumstances.
"Lady Aurelia was dead ready to run and she'd had ample rest since her disappointing run in the Breeders' Cup, which we had no real excuse for, other than it was at the end of a long year," Ward continued.
"Every piece of work she's had has been better than the last and all the times were good, but it was her first run since the Breeders' Cup and you are always vulnerable in that situation.
"It was a more explosive comeback last year, but I think Johnny (Velazquez) went out this time thinking about beating the second choice (favourite) in the race. She opened up and got caught late.
"The other thing is I think we know our filly is at her best at five furlongs. This race was five and a half and I think at five furlongs she would have won.
"I don't want to take anything away from the winner, but our filly is built like a rocket ship and I think she's dead-on at five."
Lady Aurelia will head straight to the Royal meeting, but Ward already has one eye on a return to Britain later in the summer for the Nunthorpe at York.
Frankie Dettori celebrated like he had won aboard the four-year-old on the Knavesmire last August, but the photo-finish revealed she had been narrowly beaten by Marsha.
Ward added: "I think she'll tighten up real good for the run and we'll head straight on to Ascot now.
"She'll then come home and it would be great to go back to York.
"I've been narrowly beaten in the Nunthorpe with Lady Aurelia and Acapulco was second in it as a two-year-old, so I'm set on getting the win, hopefully this year."