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Wesley Ward wins Norfolk Stakes with Shang Shang Shang

British racing's finest American import, Wesley Ward, had not enjoyed the best Royal Ascot until Shang Shang Shang landed the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes (1000m) on Thursday.

Victory for the filly against colts - the first such success since Superstar Leo beat male rivals in 2000 - was particularly sweet following the defeats of strongly-fancied Chelsea Cloisters and Lady Aurelia earlier in the week, although Shang Shang Shang did not make things easy for her trainer when prevailing on the nod by the smallest of margins. A 5/1 chance, she beat 20/1 shot Pocket Dynamo from Robert Cowell's stable, with Land Force at 7/1 a further half a length down in third.

The duelling trio of Shang Shang Shang, Pocket Dynamo and Land Force well clear of the field, photo Liesl King

Ward said of the Joel Rosario-ridden winner: "To do this with a filly is quite unbelievable. I come here every year, but we were kinda 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!

"I thought she had just done it, but you are never sure and I wanted to wait until the [photo finish] announcement before believing it. 

"I felt this filly was better than Chelsea Cloisters on firm ground, but not on soft ground. Unfortunately Chelsea Cloisters just didn't get a breather [during the race] like this filly did. I feel good right now."

The American then paid tribute to all his staff, emphasising their work in getting his team fit and ready to cross the Atlantic, and gave credit to Rosario, saying: "I have got to tell you something about this jockey. He is fabulous. He has put the time and effort in, which is why he is here. He has won Derbys, World Cups, yet he was in every day breezing my two-year-olds all winter long."

Ward has been popular with the press for the interviews he has given ahead of and during his annual visits to Royal Ascot, but today he turned the tables, expressing his thanks, with feeling, for the reception given to him by the media. 

The importance of his achievements - this was his tenth Royal Ascot winner - then seemed to hit home and he became slightly emotional before adding: "This really is the best, and everybody has been so gracious."

Tomorrow Ward runs Stillwater Cove in the G3 Albany Stakes, while on Saturday he is represented by Bound For Nowhere in the G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Moonlight Romance in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes and Undrafted in the Wokingham Handicap.

Shang Shang Shang gets the nod on the line from Pocket Dynamo and Land Force, photo Liesl King

Shang Shang Shang (5/1) became US trainer Wesley Ward's 10th winner at the Royal Meeting.

Ward and Rosario, registering his second Royal Ascot winner, teamed up to land the 2013 G2 Norfolk Stakes with No Nay Never and the American jockey was delighted to record another success at the Berkshire venue.

Rosario said: "It was a nerve-wracking finish and for a minute, I thought they were going to get me. She responded to everything I asked her to do.

"She broke well and was very calm in the beginning. I had to use a bit of her pace to get to the front and to help her get into her stride.

"This would have been a very different experience for her today in England, compared to running in America.

"She was very brave. It was very close at the finish, but we got it done.

"I thought for a second that they were going to get me. She responded to everything I asked her to do.

"I couldn't really tell if I had got there, but I'm glad that she did win!

"It means a lot to me to have another winner at Royal Ascot. There are amazing people who come here and it is a dream come true to win - I'm really happy and blessed to be here."

Joel Rosario returns on Shang Shang Shang, photo Liesl King

Robert Cowell was gracious in defeat after 20/1 shot Pocket Dynamo was beaten a nose by Shang Shang Shan. The American-bred Dialed In colt was ridden by Mickael Barzalona.

Cowell said: "We were in front probably a metre before the line and a metre after the line, but just not as we crossed the line. I would prefer to have been beaten a length or a length and a half - it would have been more satisfying - but you can't take anything away from the horse. He's run an absolute cracker, and he's a tough horse and he's genuine and he will continue to have a good season.

"At Longchamp in what was quite a snazzy race, to be honest with you, he was taken on a long way out and he battled all the way to the line and kept his nose in front so I knew he would try all the way. I am absolutely thrilled and there's plenty more fun to be had with him.

"Mickael said he's done everything beautifully and probably feels like he's won the race. He said he felt almost a stone better than when he last rode him at Longchamp, so he's maturing a lot.

"The owner Tom Morley and I felt we should have been half the price we were, but that's racing and they [horses] don't know their price."

Land Force, trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, finished half a length back in third at 7/1.

O'Brien said: "He ran really well and we're pleased. We will probably move him back up to six furlongs now."

Shang Shang Shang, photo Liesl King

2.30pm Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
1 Shang Shang Shang (Breeze Easy LLC) Wesley Ward USA 2-8-12 Joel Rosario 5/1
2 Pocket Dynamo (Tom Morley) Robert Cowell 2-9-01 Mickael Barzalona 20/1
3 Land Force (Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith) Aidan O'Brien IRE 2-9-01 Ryan Moore 7/1
4/1 fav Vintage Brut (9th)
Distances: nse, ½
Time: 59.83s
Tote Win: £4.20 Places: £1.90, £5.30, £2.20 Exacta: £85.20
Wesley Ward - 10th Royal Ascot winner
Joel Rosario - 2nd Royal Ascot winner


                           
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