Wesley Ward has saddled 12 Royal Ascot winners since the beginning of his American invasion. But it is No Nay Never whose legacy is still felt 10 years after the colt rocketed to Norfolk Stakes success.
The American first announced himself at the Royal meeting in 2009 when Strike A Tiger’s Windsor Castle triumph was quickly followed by Jealous Again romping to Queen Mary victory in the opening race of the following day.
Although then a regular bringing his string across the Atlantic to challenge, he had to wait four years for his next success when No Nay Never blitzed his way to Norfolk glory, attracting the attention of a very famous Ascot regular in the process.
“That was a great day,” said Ward.
“We were second in the Queen Mary the day before, it was a 28-runner field and we came second. My buddy Gatewood Bell, all his buddies and himself owned the filly. We had a big night out that night, a great dinner and a little bit too much wine, so when I came in the next day I was nice and relaxed and the first race of the day was the Norfolk.
“Shortly after that I was invited up to sit with the Queen for about half an hour and it was a great experience.”
Ward’s meeting with the late Queen gave the 55-year-old as much pleasure as No Nay Never’s victory itself and he was left amazed by her boundless knowledge of the sport he plied his trade.
He continued: “What was great about it was she did most of the chatting!
“When you first get up there you are nervous and she just starts firing questions at you and it puts you so at ease. She was just picking my brain and asking all these questions about how I train, how I came here and asking about all the success I had.
“It was unbelievable how much knowledge she had, not just of racing but myself – I couldn’t believe the Queen of England even knew who a trainer like myself from a different country like America was and what I had accomplished.
“You would think she would just be coming to the races and focussed on English racing and everything else she had going on in her life. She was just a wonderful person.”
No Nay Never would go on to give Ward his first European Group One when winning the Prix Morny at Deauville, a race in which he would wear the famous Magnier silks closely associated with the Coolmore operation.
“That was a great day as well,” added Ward. “John Magnier and the whole Coolmore team were there as well and we got the picture in the winner’s enclosure.
“The sales were going on so Mr Magnier was there with all his team and it was a great day along with my great friend Paul Shanahan and he is why I’ve been involved with them, so I can’t thank him enough for getting me in there and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some success for them.”
Following his on-track career, No Nay Never would prove just as proficient in the breeding sheds and the son of Scat Daddy’s progeny continue to keep his name in the spotlight at the season’s showpiece fixture.
Alcohol Free is perhaps his biggest winner at Royal Ascot so far, with Andrew Balding’s star filly landing the Coronation Stakes on a wet afternoon in 2021, while he is beginning to become a force to be reckoned with for Coolmore, especially in the juvenile ranks.
Meditate and Little Big Bear both carried No Nay Never’s genes to two-year-old triumphs at Royal Ascot 12 months ago and both are likely to return 10 years on from one of their father’s finest hours, with Little Big Bear a red-hot favourite for the Commonwealth Cup.
“He’s gone on to be a great sire as well as a very good racehorse,” said Ward.
“He was always one of those horses you always thought would go on to be a sire when you have them in your barn.
“He had a great personality and he was very fast, but his mind was something that you know when you were around a horse like him – you could see how smart and intelligent he is.
“You would think with his ability and all of that combined, those are the ones that go on to be good sires.”