Ward remains proud of vanquished Lady Aurelia

411
Horse-racing

Wesley Ward refused to be downbeat after watching his star filly Lady Aurelia lose out by the slenderest of margins in a thrilling Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

The American handler will switch his focus to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar in November, while he also suggested Lady Aurelia would return to Britain next summer.

Winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Lady Aurelia was heavily backed to win the Nunthorpe on race-day, going off the odds-on 10/11 favourite under Frankie Dettori.

A likely duel with Charlie Hills’ Battaash did not materialise, that rival having got worked up before the start then proving unable to match Lady Aurelia when things got serious two furlongs from the end.

As Dettori went for home, Luke Morris was getting a tune from Marsha and Sir Mark Prescott’s filly was diving for the line under maximum pressure from the saddle.

Lady Aurelia and Marsha flashed past together, and as Dettori saluted the crowd afterwards everyone – including Morris – felt the favourite had held on.

The photo-finish, however, would show that Marsha had gained the verdict in a head-bobbing finish, emerging only by the slenderest nose.

It left Dettori ‘in shock’ but Ward was magnanimous in defeat and said Lady Aurelia had done nothing wrong.

“It happens, I’m not going to make excuses. She’s run a fantastic race and there were no issues,” said the trainer.

“She broke out of the stalls a little sideways, but soon got going again. She’s done everything well, but take nothing away from the winner.

“We were just beaten by the hair on my chinny chin chin. I thought we’d won simply because Frankie did, but that’s racing. I have been second in this race twice now and it’s tough to take.

“Hopefully I will be back another day and we will look towards the Breeders’ Cup now.”

Lady Aurelia meanwhile is 7/2 to retain her King’s Stand crown at Royal Ascot in 2018, while Marsha is trading at 14/1 for the five-furlong contest after her brilliant York heroics.