Wesley Ward already owes a debt of gratitude to Cannonball. The impetus behind Ward going to Royal Ascot in June was a pair of races for Cannonball, but what ended up happening was Ward being celebrated for a historic breakthrough with two other horses he took there.
"Cannonball was the horse that made it all happen," said Ward, who wound up becoming the first American trainer to win Ascot stakes races when he took the Windsor Castle with Strike the Tiger and the Group 2 Queen Mary with Jealous Again.
With the Breeders' Cup set for Saturday, Ward is supremely confident that Cannonball can earn his own place in history. Cannonball is one of 14 expected Saturday for the $1 million BC Turf Sprint, a 6 1/2-furlong race down the hill that everyone expects to be wide open - except Ward.
"I'm going to win it," he said Monday from Florida. "Unless something unforeseen happens with traffic or something, I really think he'll win. I've never had a horse training better than this horse right now. He's going to run the race of his life."
Cannonball, a 4-year-old gelding bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, ran in two races four days apart at Royal Ascot, ending with a second-place finish in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee.
"He should have won that race," said Ward.
Duly regrouped, Cannonball has raced just once since his overseas trip, winning an overnight turf sprint stakes restricted to New York-breds on Sept. 6 at Saratoga. "One of the New York-breds he beat that day is one of the top horses in the Turf Sprint," Ward said, noting that Silver Timber ran second to Cannonball in that race.
The BC Turf Sprint, oversubscribed with 22 pre-entries, was expected to have as many as four female starters: Canadian Ballet, Diamondrella, Gotta Have Her, and Lethal Heat.