February 4, 2023

Shang Shang Shang spearheads Ward’s Royal Ascot trio in Saratoga turf stakes

Shang Shang Shang narrowly prevails over the boys in the Norfolk Stakes (G2) to give trainer Wesley Ward a win at the 2018 Royal Ascot meet (c) Photo courtesy of Ascot Twitter

Last seen beating the boys in the Norfolk (G2) for a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, Shang Shang Shang joins two more of Wesley Ward’s Royal Ascot alumnae in Wednesday’s $100,000 Bolton Landing at Saratoga. Stablemates Chelsea Cloisters and Stillwater Cove didn’t perform up to their best in Berkshire, but could be a different proposition in the Spa’s 5 1/2-furlong turf dash.

Note that Ward has cross-entered his trio in Friday’s $100,000 Skidmore S., also at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf, against males. The trainer told Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch Monday that he would probably split them up across the two targets.

All three scored on debut at Keeneland, but Chelsea Cloisters was the most impressive in an eight-length conquest. Much was expected of her in the June 20 Queen Mary (G2), where the First Samurai filly went off as the 3-1 favorite. Unfortunately, her chances of Royal Ascot glory were gone as soon as she broke a step slowly, and she wound up 11th of 22. Chelsea Cloisters fared a lot better in the July 3 Prix du Bois (G3) at Deauville, setting the pace early and battling on for second to fellow Queen Mary also-ran Little Kim.

Perhaps happier to be back around a turn instead of on a straightaway, Chelsea Cloisters picks up Hall of Famer John Velazquez. That could be a signal of intent to run in the Bolton Landing, since Julio Garcia is listed as her jockey in the Skidmore on Friday.

Shang Shang Shang, who beat stablemate and next-out winner Moonlight Romance first up, was a 5-1 chance versus males in the Norfolk. Showing the speed typical of a Ward juvenile, the daughter of Shanghai Bobby dug deep to stave off Pocket Dynamo by a pixel. Although Pocket Dynamo was subsequently fourth in the Prix Robert Papin (G2), Norfolk third Land Force has since won a pair of stakes including the Richmond (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, and Norfolk fourth Rumble Inthejungle scored in the Molecomb (G3). Joel Rosario, aboard at Royal Ascot, renews the partnership at Saratoga – he is named to ride her in both the Bolton Landing and the Skidmore.

Stillwater Cove barely scraped home in her unveiling, and a step up to six furlongs for the Albany (G3) proved a bridge too far, especially given her unrelenting pace. The 25-1 longshot folded to 13th in the field of 18. Ward opts to remove the blinkers for the Bolton Landing, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the well-bred Quality Road filly turns over a new leaf with Irad Ortiz Jr. (also her rider in the Skidmore).

The ubiquitous Chad Brown counters with Drynachan, a debut winner over course and distance on July 20. The daughter of City Zip stalked and pounced at the expense of fellow New York-breds, making this stakes foray also her first try in open company.

Godolphin’s homebred Elsa, a well-named filly by Animal Kingdom, looked a class apart in her unveiling going this 5 1/2-furlong trip at Laurel. The Mike Stidham pupil rallied from off the pace to score by 3 3/4 lengths and could be anything.

The Tom Albertrani-trained Avocado Toast flashed high speed to break her maiden in a Monmouth turf sprint. Norm Casse switches Fightress to turf after her seventh in the Schuylerville (G3), not a brand new idea since she won first up in an off-the-turf maiden at Churchill Downs. Questionoftheday, 2-for-3 for Mike Trombetta, likewise experiments on the surface.