October 23, 2021

American Pharoah gets first North American winner in Royal Ascot-bound Maven

Maven, American Pharoah's first North American winner, struck in France to become his first Group stakes hero (c) NYRA/Coglianese Photography

Wesley Ward has the distinction of breeding, and training, the first North American winner sired by Triple Crown champion American Pharoah after 2-5 favorite Maven wired Friday’s 1ST race at Aqueduct. Now the June 20 Norfolk (G2) at Royal Ascot is on the agenda for the speedy juvenile.

The Royal meeting also appears a likely port of call for American Pharoah’s first overall winner, Monarch of Egypt, who graduated in style for Aidan O’Brien at Naas last Saturday. And with time for more of his two-year-olds to emerge ahead of Britain’s marquee summer festival, the Coolmore America sire could muster quite a show of force.

Maven is his third starter, following fellow Ward pupil, Tesorina, who finished third in a similar 4 1/2-furlong maiden for fillies on Wednesday. Both sprinted to the lead, but unlike the tiring Tesorina, Maven continued to hold sway to the wire in the $96,500 contest.

Under Dylan Davis, the Richard Ravin colorbearer reeled off fractions of :22.55 and :46.10. His relentless pursuer, the 21-1 Lebda, whittled the margin down to a half-length. Maven always looked to have him covered while prevailing in a final time of :52.82 on the fast track.

The rest never got involved. Lebda pulled 11 1/4 lengths clear of Analyze Your Risk, part of the Repole Stable entry that went off as the nearly 3-1 second choice. Next came Women Not Easy; Managing Risk, the other half of the entry; and Dotdotdash.

“It’s definitely big for breeding in North America,” Davis said of the landmark victory for American Pharoah. “A big thank you to Wesley Ward for continuing to use me. He’s had a big impact on my career as a bug boy and continues to do so.

“With the horse being by American Pharoah, everyone expects a lot and he ran really well. I was jogging and galloping him in the mornings, so I got a good feel for him. A huge thanks to the connections, I’m sure they’re looking for bigger and better things.”

One barometer of Maven’s significance was how Ward’s phone was blowing up afterward.

“I’m getting texts from everyone watching the race,” Ward said. “It’s fantastic for racing, for Coolmore, for owner Richard Ravin and most importantly, for me. What I see is that he’s going to be a good sire.”

Maven is the first registered foal from three-time stakes winner Richies Party Girl, who was herself trained and co-owned by Ward in partnership with Ravin. The daughter of Any Given Saturday notably beat the boys in the 2013 Juvenile Turf Sprint on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Santa Anita, and at three, defeated her elders in the 2014 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Sprint in a then-6 1/2-furlong course-record 1:16.51.

“The dam was a turf sprinter,” Ward said, “and I think this one (Maven) is going to be a turf sprinter as well. He’s had outstanding works over the Polytrack at Turfway which translates to turf. We’ll run him in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot and hopefully we can put American Pharoah on the big scale as a sire.”