American trainer Wesley Ward's annual trip to Royal Ascot was off to a dazzling start opening day June 17, when 2-year-old colt Hootenanny
dominated 23 overmatched rivals in the Windsor Castle Stakes.
The 7-2 favorite, Hootenanny made nearly all the pace down the straight course and kicked on strongly in the final furlong to win by 3 1/2 lengths from Union Rose
, sent off at 100-1odds.
With Victor Espinoza riding, Hootenanny covered five furlongs in :59.05 on turf rated as good. The bay colt tallied his first stakes win and came in off a third after leading early in the Rollicking Stakes run on a muddy main track May 16 at Pimlico Race Course
. That race followed at 4 1/4-length triumph in his maiden debut, in which he forged clear late, April 14 on Polytrack at Keeneland
Hootenanny, whose win marked the fourth at a Royal meet for Ward, is from the first crop of multiple grade I winner Quality Road
, who stands at Lane's End in Versailles, Ky. He is the first stakes winner for Quality Road.
His dam is the Hennessy mare More Hennessy, a three-quarter sister to 2009 Prioress Stakes (gr. I) winner Cat Moves
. The family was cultivated by the late Edward P. Evans, a longtime Lane's End client who bred and campaigned Quality Road to seven graded wins and more $2.2 million in earnings.
"He has won well and hopefully he has a good future," Ward, who has five more intended runners at Royal Ascot, said of Hootenanny. "We will see what happens. One thing we found out from his last race was that he does not like racing on dirt. I knew that going into the race and ran him against my better judgment."
Ward trains Hootenanny for Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor.
Bred in Kentucky by Barronstown, the colt was a $75,000 purchase by Cromwell Bloodstock from the St. George Sales consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. Prior to that, Winding Oaks Farm bought him as a weanling from Eaton Sales for $120,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Five years ago, Ward became the first American trainer to saddle a winner at Royal Ascot when Strike the Tiger
won the 2009 Windsor Castle Stakes at odds of 33-1. He also enjoyed success at the same meet with Jealous Again
, who won the Queen Mary Stakes (gr. II). In 2013 he sent out the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) winner in No Nay Never
, who went on to capture the Prix Morny (Fr-I) at Deauville, making him only the third American-based trainer to win a European group I.
"It looks easy (winning at Royal Ascot) but really it is a lot of work," Ward said. "Its starts with breaking the horses in September and October and I don't get home at night until 8 to 9 p.m. seven days a week in Florida.
"When I first came, it was a bit of an unknown but now I know the races, the conditions and Royal Ascot. Hopefully, I can bring older horses too in the future and some of my counterparts in America will come and see the magnitude of the meeting. To me, Royal Ascot is bigger and better than the Breeders' Cup.
"Hootenanny is a very nice colt and was very professional. He did not get hot, he did not get nervous and took it all in his stride. He stood like a statue in the gate."