Sunday 16 June 2024

Blazing a Trail: Wesley Ward and Burning Pine Eye Royal Ascot Glory

Blazing a Trail: Wesley Ward and Burning Pine Eye Royal Ascot Glory
As the global horse racing community turns its gaze towards Royal Ascot 2024, American trainer Wesley A. Ward is ready to make a significant mark with his promising cohort of two-year-old thoroughbreds. Known for his knack with juveniles, Ward has a long-standing reputation for turning precocious youngsters into formidable contenders at one of the world's most prestigious racing festivals. This year, the spotlight is on Burning Pine, a filly whose debut at Keeneland has generated considerable buzz. As Ward prepares to make his transatlantic trip, hopes are high that his young charge will bring home victory.

The Rising Star: Burning Pine

Born on March 8, 2022, Burning Pine is a bay filly whose pedigree hints at her racing potential. Trained by Wesley A. Ward, a name synonymous with success at Royal Ascot, Burning Pine races under the banner of Hat Creek Racing. Her lineage is impressive, being sired by Nyquist (USA), a stallion renowned for his speed over sprint distances (6 furlongs), and out of the mare Orabella (USA). Orabella's sire, More Than Ready (USA), also boasts an impressive track record, excelling over distances up to 8.2 furlongs.

Bred by Hidden Brook Farm & Spruce Lane Farm, Burning Pine's genetic heritage suggests a blend of speed and stamina, a combination that could serve her well over the short and sharp tests she will face at Royal Ascot.

Debut Triumph at Keeneland

Burning Pine’s career began with a sparkling debut on April 26, 2024, at Keeneland in a Maiden Special Weight race. Competing over 4½ furlongs on a fast dirt track, she dominated the field under the expert guidance of jockey Joel Rosario. Burning Pine set the pace early, leading from the front and extending her advantage in the final two furlongs. Her commanding performance saw her comfortably finish first by three and a half lengths, securing a winner’s purse of £37,590.55.

The race report highlighted her smooth progression:

"Made all, extended advantage under 2f out, kept on final furlong, comfortably."

Burning Pine's ability to control the race from the front and finish strongly suggests she has the qualities needed to thrive in the competitive environment of Royal Ascot.

Royal Ascot Entries

Wesley Ward, who has a keen eye for recognizing and nurturing juvenile talent, has entered Burning Pine in three key races at Royal Ascot, each promising a different challenge for the young filly. Her entries are as follows:

Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) (5f) - Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Queen Mary Stakes is a prestigious race exclusively for two-year-old fillies, run over a straight five furlongs. Priced at 16/1, Burning Pine will face a field of talented peers, each looking to make their mark early in their careers. Her speed and early pace will be critical assets in this sprint, and her Keeneland performance indicates she has the ability to hold her own.

Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) (5f) - Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Norfolk Stakes, another five-furlong sprint, is open to both colts and fillies. With odds at 20/1, this race will test Burning Pine against a potentially stronger field, but her proven ability to lead and maintain a pace could be advantageous. Her stamina will be tested as she faces off against some of the best juveniles in the world.

Albany Stakes (Group 3) (6f) - Friday, June 21, 2024

Stepping up in distance, the Albany Stakes covers six furlongs and is exclusively for fillies. Burning Pine is priced at 14/1 for this race, which will be a true test of her versatility and stamina. Her pedigree suggests she can handle this extended distance, and her ability to stay on powerfully could come into play, especially if the race unfolds at a strong pace.

Wesley Ward’s Royal Ascot Successes

Wesley Ward's track record at Royal Ascot is remarkable, particularly with his two-year-old contenders. His success began in 2009 when he became the first American trainer to win at the meet, courtesy of Strike the Tiger in the Windsor Castle Stakes. He followed up with another win that year with Jealous Again in the Queen Mary Stakes.

Ward’s affinity for preparing juveniles for the rigors of Royal Ascot continued with notable victories, including:

  • Acapulco (2015): Won the Queen Mary Stakes and later placed second in the Nunthorpe Stakes against older horses.
  • Lady Aurelia (2016): Dominated the Queen Mary Stakes and returned in 2017 to win the King's Stand Stakes, becoming a crowd favorite for her explosive speed.
  • Shang Shang Shang (2018): Captured the Norfolk Stakes, showcasing Ward’s ability to find and develop precocious speed in his youngsters.
  • Campanelle (2020): Triumphed in the Queen Mary Stakes and returned in 2021 to win the Commonwealth Cup, solidifying Ward’s status as a leading trainer at the meet.

Aiming for Ascot Glory

For Wesley Ward, Royal Ascot 2024 represents another opportunity to showcase his unique approach to training two-year-olds. With Burning Pine, he brings a filly of considerable promise, whose early performances suggest she could join the ranks of his previous Ascot winners. Her blend of speed, tactical awareness, and breeding equips her well for the challenges ahead.

As the anticipation builds, all eyes will be on this dynamic duo as they look to blaze a trail at Royal Ascot, hoping to add another chapter to Ward’s already illustrious history at the event.

Photo: Pixabay (free) Attribution Given 

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