Trainer Ward on Derby Win: Faith in Horse Justified

Trainer Ward on Derby Win: Faith in Horse Justified
Photo:
Kentucky Derby winning trainer John Ward.
After checking on the horses at his Keeneland-based stable near Lexington, Ky. trainer John Ward arrived at Churchill Downs Sunday morning to reflect on the significance of winning his first Kentuckky Derby with Monarchos on Saturday.

"As far as having any euphoria about winning the race, I was happy that we won the race and everything...I guess the feeling is it is a reinforcement that everything you believe isn't just a myth," Ward said. "It's truth. Your horse has given you the satisfaction of justifying the faith that you put in them and that's probably more of it. As far as winning the Kentucky Derby goes, it will be days and weeks before that sets in. We have a lot of stuff to happen before it finally gets slow enough to think about it."

Ward said Monarchos was fine, other than being tired after the 1 1/4 mile race.

"It appears like he came back in good shape...We gave him a bath, he walked and he wanted to lay back down, which is good," the trainer said. "He was very bright in the spit box after the race, so he had an emotional letdown, which is good, and that will keep him quiet for a day or two. Everything looks rosy. As long as Yvonne (assistant trainer Yvonne Azess) has a smile on her face, I'm OK. She is the barometer."

In addition a large media contingent, among those congratulating Ward Sunday morning were singer-artist Tony Bennett and Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis, whose Pimlico Racecourse hosts the Preakness Stakes, second leg of racing's coveted Triple Crown. "I'll be coming over to see you in a few days," said Ward, who plans to also ship Hero's Tribute with designs on running in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness Day card.

"I am looking to ship him to Pimlico on Wednesday, but that is subject to change after I go over there and see what it is like. If we ship to Pimlico on Wednesday, this horse will probably go back to the track on Tuesday and maybe Wednesday because I'd like him to be a little flat when he goes over there because he is not a good shipper."

A relaxed Ward said he had a good feeling once he realized Monarchos had won the Derby. "It felt good because Donna (his wife) stopped choking me at that point," Ward said, laughing. "When this horse finally gets around his horses and gets to the lead, it is a feeling of total relief. As far as having any euphoria about winning the race, I was happy that we won the race and everything...I guess the feeling is it is a reinforcement that everything you believe isn't just a myth. It's truth. Your horse has given you the satisfaction of justifying the faith that you put in them and that's probably more of it. As far as winning the Kentucky Derby goes, it will be days and weeks before that sets in. We have a lot of stuff to happen before it finally gets slow enough to think about it.

Ward said trainers, including Wayne Lukas (who did not have a Derby starter), Todd Pletcher, and others with horses in the race "were very nice about the whole situation. Being a Kentuckian, the best part of it is, is you are doing it in front of your peers. What I mean by your peers are people you have grown up with, people that you have been associated with. This is every farm manager. This is every stallion groom, every broodmare groom in Lexington. Essentially, these people have been watching this chase for years with other people and it has finally come back to them at home, and they are very proud of it."

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