There’s no doubt about it, Wednesday’s $100,000 Bolton Landing Stakes begins and may end with trainer Wesley Ward and his well-travelled trio of juvenile fillies Shang Shang Shang, Chelsea Cloisters, and Stillwater Cove. The 5 1/2-furlong turf dash drew a field of eight, including Drynachan and Elsa, who each has won her only start.
All three of Ward’s potential starters made their last start across the pond in England or France. Shang Shang Shang was the only winner of the three in Europe, hanging on late for a nose decision in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes on June 21 at Ascot. Chelsea Cloisters did not fare as well at Ascot, where she finished 11th in the Group 2 Queen Mary, although she did bounce back two weeks later to be second in the Group 3 Prix du Bois at Deauville. Stillwater Cove set a lively pace under Joel Rosario only to falter late and finish far back in the Group 3 Albany Stakes, also at Ascot, on June 22.
Ward said Monday he would likely run only two of his three fillies in the Bolton Landing while holding out at least one to face males in Friday’s $100,000 Skidmore Stakes here. Ward won’t make the final decision until Tuesday, although he said he was leaning toward starting Chelsea Cloisters and Stillwater Cove in the Bolton Landing.
“I worked Chelsea Cloisters with Shang Shang Shang the other day in company,” Ward said. “I had David Flores on Chelsea Cloisters and Eric Cancel on Shang Shang Shang. David is retired now, so he weighs about 130 pounds. There was about a 25- to 30-pound weight swing, and they finished heads-up, so visually Chelsea was better. It was a really good work for her.”
Ward said Stillwater Cove has done well since getting a little freshening upon returning stateside.
“I was really disappointed in her race in Ascot,” Ward said. “I really had high hopes for her. She settled in very nicely over there before the race, which is why I chose to run her six furlongs. She came out about a head behind the field. That’s when Joel punched on her a little bit, and when he did she took off and went 44 flat for the half, and it was just too much for her.”
Ward said he expects all three of his fillies, no matter which race they compete in this week, to bounce back well from their overseas adventures.
“If you look at my record since I’ve been going over there these last nine years, most of my horses win first time out,” Ward said. “I give them plenty of time when they get back to settle in and put the weight back on before I breeze or run them again.”
Drynachan rallied to a very professional two-length victory going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf here earlier in the meet for leading trainer Chad Brown.
“She’s a nice horse, solid,” Brown said. “It didn’t surprise us that she won. She has to take a big jump up in a stake, though, but she seems like she really fits. She laid a little closer than I thought she would last race. I was surprised she was that forward, but it really worked out well for her.”
Elsa also came from off the pace to capture her debut by 3 3/4 lengths last month at Laurel for trainer Michael Stidham. The daughter of Animal Kingdom has continued to work forwardly since her debut at the Fair Hill Training Center.
Completing the field are Questionoftheday, a winner of two of her three starts, Avocado Toast, and Fightress.
– additional reporting by David Grening
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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