Trainer Ward has strong hand for Woodbine juvenile stakes

Trainer Wesley Ward has a good problem on his hands heading into next weekend’s slate of stakes races at Woodbine. He has two strong turf fillies he is having a hard time separating, as was evident Friday when he worked stakes winners Red Lodge and Con Te Partiro in company over the Keeneland turf in preparation for possible starts in the Grade I Natalma Stakes for at Woodbine on Sept. 18.

Shortly after sending out Group II winner Acapulco through a 4 move in :51.80 over the Keeneland turf, Ward watched in the grandstand as Red Lodge and Con Te Partino broke off together and covered 5 furlongs in 1:02 on even terms with Red Lodge on the inside.

While both fillies are nominated for the 1 Natalma, Ward said is considering putting one in that spot and sending the other against males in the Grade II Summer Stakes held at Woodbine on the same card.

“We’re trying to look to see if we’re going to run them both (in the Natalma), because it’s a Grade I, or maybe run one of them against the boys in the Summer Stakes,” Ward said. “It was a nice work today, both of them. It was tough to separate them.

“Right now, visually, both of them were nearly equal. If I had to decide which one was better today I’d say Red Lodge although David Flores was up on Red Lodge and the exercise boy was on the other horse. David is lighter than the exercise boy … so that as well comes into play. It’s a little bit of an advantage there to the rider standpoint. I’d say both of them had a very nice work.”

Red Lodge is already a veteran with four starts under her belt, breaking her maiden second time out at Belmont Park on May 27 where she set a track record in the process for 5 furlongs on the turf. The daughter of Midshipman then traveled to Royal Ascot where she ran ninth in the Group II Norfolk Stakes, but redeemed herself most recently with a win in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 6.

“She came back (from Ascot) good and won a stake on the grass at Monmouth that kind of vindicated the loss over there,” Ward said. “She probably would have run a little better (at Ascot) but she broke the track record at Belmont and from there, we shipped back to Kentucky and up to Indiana and flew over and the race was only 2 ½ weeks later so that’s a lot to ask of a 2-year-old filly.

“She still ran credible but not nearly as good as she did when she broke her maiden and not nearly as good as when she won at Monmouth. But now we’ve had good spacing and it looks like she’s going to be right on target for the Natalma”

Con Te Partiro, a dark bay daughter of Scat Daddy, has won two of three starts including a runaway 5 3/4-length score last time out in the Bolton Landing Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint on the Saratoga turf.

“She ran a tremendous race at Saratoga. Now it’s just a question of if we think we can stretch out a bit further and if she can carry that speed on,” Ward said.

As is often the case in his barn, Ward currently has an abundance of promising, speedy juveniles - none more explosive than Group I winner Lady Aurelia. The bay daughter of Scat Daddy dropped jaws when she won the Group II Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot by 7 lengths on June 15 and is now pointing for the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on Sept. 24 following her win in the Group I Prix Morny at Deauville on Aug. 21.

“My assistant over there is Frankie Dettori,” Ward laughed, referring to the champion jockey who is helping tend to Lady Aurelia while she is overseas. “He gets on her every day and I get video footage of her every day.

“Frankie said if you watch (the Prix Morny) right after she passes inside the eighth pole..she hit a hole and she lost all of her action. She’s such an athlete that she recovered so quick. She’s really, really settled in (at English National Stud) and picked up all of her weight. She’s doing tremendous and she’s going to breeze tomorrow (Saturday).”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: 859-231-1676, @horseracinghl