Wesley Ward had one word of instruction for Joel Rosario.
“‘Vamonos’ was the word,” Ward said after Shang Shang Shang (5-1 U.K., 3-1 U.S.) led the whole way Thursday to narrowly win the $132,500 Group 2 Norfolk Stakes, giving him his 10th training victory at Royal Ascot.
“Vamonos” is more emphatic than the English “let’s go.” Emphatic was the ride that Rosario gave the winning filly against nine 2-year-old colts in the straight five-furlong turf dash, the opener on the third day of England’s most famous racing festival.
Right after the race America’s most successful Royal Ascot trainer could barely contain his excitement over Rosario’s ride in the second race of the Florida-bred filly’s career.
“Let me tell you something about this jockey,” Ward said. “He’s fabulous. He put his time and effort in. That’s why he’s here. He’s won Derbies, World Cups, yet every day he breezes my 2-year-olds all winter long.”
Rosario’s ride got a different sort of review from one race commentator. Matt Chapman, a notorious British provocateur working on the ITV Racing telecast being shown here on NBCSN, compared Rosario’s racing style with gun violence. Chapman said it was “the first time this week one of the American horses has been ridden as an American horse should be ridden. Point and shoot. Why do they think there’s so much security here?”
At first Rosario was not sure he had collected the second Royal Ascot victory of his career. Not before the finish-line photo confirmed that the filly sired by Shanghai Bobby got to 2-for-2 by just a nose from the late-charging Pocket Dynamo (20/1, 20/1). Land Force (7/1, 6/1) was another half-length behind in third.
“I couldn’t tell if I got there,” said Rosario, who also won the Norfolk five years ago riding Ward’s colt No Nay Never. “She was responding to everything I asked her to do. I used a bit of her pace to get to the front and to help get her into stride. I thought for a second they were going to get me. It was very close in the last part, but we got it done.”
On what was the firmest ground of a dry, warm week, Shang Shang Shang was clocked at 59.83 seconds.
For Ward the victory in his 10th year going to Royal Ascot offset two days of disappointments with four horses that failed to hit the board, including favorites Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand and Chelsea Cloisters in the Queen Mary. He broke through Thursday with the first filly to beat the boys in the Norfolk since Superstar Leo in 2000.
“To do this with a filly is quite unbelievable,” Ward said. “I come here every year, but we were kind of scratching our heads for a few days and felt like we were back at the beginning and wondering if we were in the wrong place or not. We had done all the planning just as before, but it wasn’t coming through. Thank God it did today. Barely.”
Ward has four horses yet to run in the two days left of Royal Ascot starting Friday with Stillwater Cove, a 12-1 chance with British bookmakers in the Group 3 Albany Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies. Ward also has Moonlight Romance, the 11-2 favorite in Saturday’s five-furlong Windsor Castle sprint. Bound For Nowhere, 10-1 in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee, and former Royal Ascot winner Undrafted, 20-1 in the Wokington handicap, are Ward’s other Saturday entries.
Stradivarius stays on to win Gold Cup
In a thrilling, three-way battle at the end of a 2½-mile test, Stradivarius (7-4, 8-5) held on for a three-quarter-length victory over Vazirabad (9-2, 4-1) to win the Group 1 Gold Cup, the most prestigious race of Royal Ascot week. The win for trainer John Gosden gave Frankie Dettori, 47, his 60th Royal Ascot victory, one that he celebrated with his typical flying dismount in the winner’s circle. Torcedor (14-1, 14-1) was head farther back in third.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore led Coolmore’s second and third wins of this year’s royal meeting. Magic Wand (10-3, 5-2) finished first in the Group 2 Ribblesdale, a 1½-miler for 3-year-old fillies. Hunting Horn scored in the Group 3 Hampton Court, a 1¼-mile race for 3-year-olds that had not previously won a Group 1 or 2.