Golden day planned at York as Ward eyes Atlantic crossing for Pal

RACING fans in the North of England should be welcoming a special visitor in August, with Wesley Ward ready to bring American sprint king Golden Pal over for his first visit of 2021 to England.

It will be the second time the colt has crossed the Atlantic, having finished as runner-up in the Norfolk Stakes last year, just pipped for first prize by Lir Jet in an exhilarating encounter at Royal Ascot.

The three-year-old followed that up by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland in November, with a return to the Royal Ascot meeting high on Ward’s plans this year. However, an early-season ankle injury prevented him competing in the King’s Stand at the Royal meeting, with connections earmarking a run at home for his season bow.

In the recent Grade Three Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga, he took early charge of the five-and-half-furlong race, turning up the heat in the home straight to score by three lengths.

According to BBC Sport, now he has been pencilled in for a trip to the Knavesmire in a race sponsored by his new owners, Coolmore. It will be a big boost for both the York racecourse and British racing in general if he competes, with Golden Pal a horse Ward has described as potentially the best he has trained.

“He’s so extremely talented and quick,” said the trainer. “He’s a big horse and he moves like a cat, and that’s where he really has an advantage.

“I was a little concerned going into the race (at Saratoga) that I didn’t have a lot of gate work into him, but he’s so smart that he overcame that in the first jump. When they said ‘go’, he was gone.” If all goes to plan then Ward is already looking towards the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar in November, reports American Racehorse Magazine.

It could turn out to be a titanic clash at York, with hat-trick-seeking Battaash also in line to compete if he suffers no ill-effects from his planned run in the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood. It will be Battaash’s fourth run in the Nunthorpe having been first past the post in 2019 and 2020, but he has never faced a horse like Golden Pal, and if he did win he would become only the third horse in history to claim a hat-trick of Nunthorpe wins – the last to do it was Sharpo back in 1980, 81 and 82. Early betting has the two vying for favouritism at around 4/1.

There will also be a heavy local presence in the race with Winter Power (6/1), – a previous winner at the track – Glass Slippers (8/1) and Liberty Beach (12/1) all near the top of the betting, and all trained just a few miles from York.

Betting trends on horse apps suggest that Golden Pal will have his work cut out with ten of the last 12 winners being aged four or over, and 11 of the last 12 winners having had at least one run at the York track.

The Nunthorpe Stakes has been a firm fixture on the racing calendar since 1903, and the quality of event and the field it attracts saw it become part of the Breeders Cup Challenge series ten years ago. The winner now earns an automatic invitation to compete in the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint.