History was made in the June 16 Windsor Castle Stakes (Eng-Listed) over five furlongs on good to firm turf on the first day of Royal Ascot, when 33-1 Strike The Tiger became the first ever American-trained horse to win at the meeting when holding on by a neck to beat Fratellino.
The winner, who was also gave jockey John Velazquez his first Ascot success, is trained by Wesley Ward, who also co-bred the gelding.
“I bred and raised the horse so to bring him over to win at Royal Ascot is something special, especially with my father and son being here,” Ward said. “He’ll be heading home to race now. This is a beautiful place and I’ve been very impressed with everything that’s gone on.
“It’s great to prove that you can bring a horse over from America and be competitive here and I hope this win will open doors. This is a real international meet and I think trainers at home have been apprehensive about coming over but they will see they can come here, win a here and then go home ready to run. I hope this causes a lot of the better horses to come over.
“This was a great race for me to win, but I know it is not one of the strongest here and hopefully my better 2-year-olds can go on and do well later this week. We have very few opportunities on turf at home, but when I did take him to gallop on grass at River Downs, a small track, he really stepped up--he’s just a different horse on it. I think he’s going to be a special horse.”
Ward brought five 2-year-olds over to England, plus sprinter Cannonball who finished sixth earlier in the day in the King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I) behind the Australian-trained Scenic Blast.
Velazquez said of his win: “You watch this meeting on TV, thinking you’d love to be there so to win here is very special. I was very proud of Strike The Tiger and at the end he kept giving me a little more, he was very game.
“I asked Frankie (Dettori) a bit about the course, but watched all the earlier races and walked the course. I thought it was a bit better ground on the left so decided to switch from right to left. I‘d like to come here any time.”
Strike The Tiger, a 2-year-old son on of Tiger Ridge—R Lucky Strike, by In Excess, won in his debut April 28 at Churchill Downs. He was bred in California and is owned by his co-breeders, Mitchell Dutko and Ray Sainz.