A rainy Monday morning in June isn't something most people look forward to, but for trainer Wesley Ward and his large contingent of turf workers June 5 at Keeneland, it couldn't have been more perfect.
Just as the rain subsided, Ward sent out 11 workers in five separate groups starting minutes before 10 a.m. Monday on the Keeneland turf, which was softened slightly from the earlier showers but still rated firm. In the first group was 2016 European champion Lady Aurelia and her regular workmate Bound for Nowhere.
"I was going (to have her) go into the work easy but then we got a little bit of rain and had a little bit of give to the ground, so I thought it would be a good time to let her skip along, so I changed my plan," said Ward, who was surrounded by a large contingent of connections in the Keeneland grandstand Monday.
In a steady breeze under regular exercise rider Julio Garcia, the daughter of Scat Daddy moved comfortably on the inside of her workmate, getting a slight advantage on the 3-year-old colt at the wire. Both were credited with 1:00 4/5 for the five-furlong move.
"She worked tremendous," the trainer said. "She's still just an inch or two better at the wire than he was, but she should be. It's very promising for him. He's got a big, long stride and he's going to want to go another eighth of a mile, (while) she kind of scampers. For both of them, it was a great work."
Owned by Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton, and Peter Leidel, Lady Aurelia suffered only one defeat in her five-race career. Last year's Cartier champion 2-year-old filly opened this season with a 2 1/2-length score in the Giant's Causeway Stakes April 15 at Keeneland. She looks to build upon her 2016 success at Royal Ascot, where she won the Queen Mary Stakes (G2), when the 3-year-old filly faces older rivals and males in the five-furlong King's Stand Stakes (G1) June 20.
Bound for Nowhere, owned by Ward, is being pointed to the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1) for 3-year-olds June 23. The son of The Factor is two for two in his short career, most recently winning a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race by 4 1/2 lengths April 20 at Keeneland.
As soon as the first two completed their move, Ward's second pair—multiple graded stakes winner Undrafted and stakes-winning 3-year-old filly Con Te Partiro—took aim. The 3-year-old filly finished up ahead of her workmate by a slim margin, clocking five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 while Undrafted was credited with 1:00 3/5.
Wes Welker and Elizabeth Kumin's 7-year-old Purim gelding Undrafted will make his next start in the six-furlong $300,000 Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3T) June 10 at Belmont Park. He was also a last out winner at Keeneland, picking up an April 21 turf sprint allowance. Hat Creek Racing's Con Te Partiro (Scat Daddy), will contest the one-mile Sandringham Stakes at Ascot June 21.
"Con Te Partio had a fantastic work... she showed today that she likes a little give in the ground, which we're more than likely to have there," the conditioner said.
"McErin had a beautiful work again. He kind of validated what I've thought—that he's better on the grass than the dirt," he said of the stakes-placed son of Trappe Shot , who will contest the June 22 Norfolk Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot.
"Unfortunately for Mr. Ramsey, I was looking for a bigger work from Nuclear Option, but it didn't happen. So we're going to forego taking him over there for the Windsor Castle (Stakes at Ascot)."
"Arawak was really good against Happy Like a Fool," he said of the Uncle Mo colt owned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith.
"Happy Like a Fool is pointed for the Queen Mary (Stakes, G2, June 21). I think she's going to have an unbelievable chance; her last few works have been monstrous. Arawak has a bigger longer stride, kind of like Bound for Nowhere, and he's going to be in the Coventry (Stakes, G2 June 20). He had a nice work, keeping up with a fast, fast filly like her."
In the last group, Fairyland traveled behind two other 2-year-olds, Princess Peggy and Irish-bred Elizabeth Darcy, all going four furlongs. Keeneland clockers caught Fairyland in :47 2/5, and had Princess Peggy and Elizabeth Darcy in :47 3/5. All three fillies are likely to head to Royal Ascot.
Hat Creek Racing's Elizabeth Darcy will contest the Windsor Castle on opening day, Coolmore partners' Fairyland will go to the Albany Stakes (G3) June 23, and Ward thinks Stonestreet Stable's Princess Peggy earned a trip after her work Monday but will confirm with connections.
The trainer said the group will ship to Indianapolis in the early morning of June 6 to fly out at 4:30 a.m. and will arrive at London Stansted Airport. Lady Aurelia will likely work once more at Ascot June 13, while the others will breeze at the Rowley Mile at Newmarket.