Ward has Breeders' Cup ambitions for 'pure sprinter' Kimari

Ward has Breeders' Cup ambitions for 'pure sprinter' Kimari
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

Moments after Kimari delivered a big performance in her 2020 debut, trainer Wesley Ward outlined much bigger plans he has for his world traveler and dual-surface stakes winner.

Kimari, in her return to dirt, was a 1 ¾-length winner of the $100,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn. Ridden by Channing Hill, Kimari ($7.80) powered past favored Frank’s Rockette on the outside in deep stretch to win for the fourth time in six lifetime starts for owner Ten Broeck Farm Inc. (David Mowat).

Ward said the tentative plan for Kimari is to return to England for the Commonwealth Cup (G1) June 19 at the Royal Ascot meeting, with the year-end objective being the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

“She’s going to be just a pure sprinter, dirt or turf,” Ward said after his first career Oaklawn victory. “We’ll probably try to stick a little bit to the grass to keep her sound because the ultimate goal would be the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. I’ve told them all along that I feel so strongly about this filly. Plus, Keeneland (site of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup) is my home base and hers as well, so we would like to go against the boys. It’s a 6-furlong (dirt) race. I think she’s really going to jump up as we get through the season, and numbers-wise she’ll be right up there as a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against the boys.”

A daughter of Munnings, Kimari was making her first start since finishing fourth against males in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

Kimari was already a two-time stakes winner on grass and finished second, beaten a head, in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) last June at the Royal Ascot meeting. In her only previous dirt start, Kimari crushed males by 15 front-running lengths in her career debut last April at Keeneland. Based on two swift workouts in March at Gulfstream Park West (formerly Calder), Ward said he decided to return Kimari to dirt and targeted the $150,000 Beaumont Stakes (G3) April 5 at Keeneland for her 3-year-old debut. Kimari, however, was rerouted to Oaklawn after Keeneland canceled its spring meeting because of COVID-19.

“Since we gave her the winter off, she came back completely sound,” said Ward, noted for his success with 2-year-olds, particularly sprinting. “I took her to Calder, which I think is the best dirt surface, as far as being very, very safe and horses coming back sound from their breezes. I gave her a work from the gate. She worked (5 furlongs) in :58 flat. That’s the first horse I’ve ever had do that there. Just was a real eye-catching breeze. After that day, I switched from thinking about running her on the grass at Keeneland to the dirt at Keeneland.”

Kimari, nine days later at Gulfstream Park West, worked 6 furlongs in 1:12.20.

“I knew the dirt wouldn’t be an issue,” Ward said.

Racing Saturday over a sloppy, sealed surface, Kimari covered 6 furlongs in 1:10.57. The victory raised her career earnings to $351,646. She was a $152,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale purchase.

Ward said in a text message Sunday morning that Kimari emerged from her victory in “great” shape physically. Chris Hartman, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2015, saddled Kimari in Ward’s absence.

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