Trainer John T. Ward, who conditioned Monarchos to an upset victory in the 2001 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), has been appointed executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The appointment, which takes effect April 1, was made Feb. 27 by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in a release.
Ward, 66, succeeds Lisa Underwood, who left her position in November 2011 to become partner in a Lexington law firm. Ward will give up his current position as a member of the KHRC and will relinquish his Kentucky trainer’s license when he assumes his new post.
Along with his wife, Donna, Ward operates the John T. Ward Stables in Paris, Ky., with racing operations in New York and Florida. A third-generation trainer, Ward also trained champion Beautiful Pleasure, 1995 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Gal in a Ruckus, and grade I winner Sky Mesa.
“John Ward brings to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission years of experience as a trainer and horseman, and his understanding of the needs of our struggling horse industry make him an excellent choice to oversee the development and regulation of racing and breeding in Kentucky,” Beshear said in a statement.
According to the release, KHRC chairman Robert M. Beck, Jr., vice chair Tracy Farmer, and Public Protection Cabinet secretary Robert Vance selected Ward after conducting interviews with applicants.
“John has an impeccable reputation not only in Kentucky, but throughout Thoroughbred racing across the country,” said Beck. “I believe Kentucky is fortunate to have his knowledge and skills to lead us as we continue to look toward the re-emergence of one of Kentucky’s signature industries as the world leader in breeding and racing.”
Ward is a founding member and past president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, where he helped in the implementation of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. He has also served on the TOBA Sales Integrity Task Force and the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council. He and his wife were also named recipients of the 2002 Kentucky Thoroughbred Media’s “Ambassadors of Racing Award.”
“While Kentucky has made great strides in the past five years to address the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred racing, there is much more we can still do,” said Ward. “I am excited to be working with one of the most talented and dedicated staffs of any commission in the country. This is a tremendous honor and I look forward to the challenge.”
In December, the Kentucky commission fired Hall of Fame trainer John Veitch from his position as chief steward and last month upheld a hearing officer’s recommendation to suspend Veitch for one year as a result of his role in the Life At Ten incident during the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I). Hearing officer Robert Layton determined Veitch had violated rules by not having Life At Ten inspected by a veterinarian or scratched from the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs after jockey John Velazquez told an ESPN audience the filly was not warming up properly prior to the race. Among other charges, Layton ruled Veitch should have ordered Life At Ten tested after the Ladies’ Classic, in which she was not persevered with and ran last as the 7-2 second choice.