Wesley Ward is confident American Rascal can give hot favourite Elite Status a run for his money in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot on Thursday.
The Karl Burke-trained Elite Status has been all the rage for the Group Two contest, having followed up an impressive racecourse debut at Doncaster with a dominant display in the National Stakes at Sandown.
But Ward knows what it takes to win the Norfolk, having previously struck gold with No Nay Never (2013) and Shang Shang Shang (2018), and his latest candidate is certainly bred for the job as a son of the popular American’s dual Royal Ascot heroine Lady Aurelia.
American Rascal looked to have inherited a good portion of his mother’s blistering speed when powering over 10 lengths clear on the dirt at Keeneland in April and he can be expected to blaze a trail from stall one in the day three curtain-raiser.
“Everything is unbelievable with American Rascal, it’s all systems forward. He’s travelled great, been training great. We couldn’t be happier with him,” said Ward.
“American Rascal is the star of the show for us, anyway.”
Elite Status appears to be the top dog in what appears a particularly strong team of juveniles for Burke this season, and the Spigot Lodge expects his star youngster to take some stopping.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “I think and I hope he’s a very talented horse for the future and this track will play to his strengths.
“If he gets luck in running, for me he’s the one they’ve got to beat, but it’s very well me saying it, he’s got to go and do it.
“It was a very impressive performance at Sandown, not just visually but on the clock. The race beforehand was probably the strongest two-year-old race of the season and he annihilated them, so fingers crossed we can do it again.”
American Rascal is joined by compatriot No Nay Mets, who won on his introduction at Gulfstream for trainer George Weaver and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Noche Magica (Paddy Twomey), Devious (Donnacha O’Brien) and His Majesty (Aidan O’Brien) also feature.
The other Group Two on the card is the Ribblesdale Stakes, in which the unbeaten Al Asifah will be widely expected to play a starring role.
John and Thady Gosden’s filly did not make her debut until late May, but was far too good for her rivals on her first start at Haydock and again proved in a different class when stepped up to Listed class at Goodwood.
She turns out just 11 days later after being supplemented for the Ribblesdale by the Shadwell team, with racing manager Angus Gold excited about her prospects.
He said: “She’s come out of Goodwood in really good shape, she didn’t have a hard race. In everyone’s opinion she is a filly of great potential, but it is a big step up and we’ll see where she fits in a bit more after we see her in the Ribblesdale.
“We’ve been playing catch up a bit as she was just a bit immature last year and had a few little niggling problems which held her up.
“It’s all come a bit quick for her, which is normally not our way, but equally because she seems to have taken her Goodwood race well.
“Sheikha Hissa is going to be here, we wanted her to have the chance to see the filly and she was keen to see her, so it just fits in time-wise. We would have another month to wait otherwise and anything can happen in that time.
“Hopefully, while she is in very good form, we thought we would roll the dice.”
Al Asifah may not have things al her own way, with Sir Michael Stoute’s Infinite Cosmos and Bluestocking from Ralph Beckett’s yard the two obvious dangers.
Infinite Cosmos brings strong form claims after finishing third behind subsequent Oaks heroine Soul Sister in the Musidora Stakes at York, while Bluestocking has been kept fresh since being beaten a head by Warm Heart, also in the Ribblesdale field, on her seasonal bow in a Newbury Listed event.
Barry Mahon, racing manager for Bluestocking’s owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “We’re looking forward to seeing her and hopefully she will have come on for her reappearance. She was so green at Newbury on her second start, you would like to think she is going to improve.
“Ralph is happy with her and she’s been training nicely. She’s a filly we are looking forward to.
“It’s a big jump up, the Gosden filly looked exceptional last week and I know Sir Michael thinks an awful lot of his filly.
“It could be a pretty strong renewal, but we like our filly and I think she is going in the right direction. Whether that is in the Ribblesdale or later in the season, I think she will develop into a top filly.”