Trainer John Ward named to lead Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

by | 02.27.2012 | 1:40pm
John Ward

Governor Steve Beshear today announced he will appoint veteran Thoroughbred trainer John T. Ward as the new executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Ward, who along with his wife Donna operate John T. Ward Stables in Paris, Ky., as well as training and racing operations in New York and Florida, will assume his new role April 1. He succeeds Lisa E. Underwood who resigned in November 2011 to return to private law practice.

“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,” said Gov. Beshear.

The 66 year-old Ward is a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer with Monarchos in 2001. He has also trained winners in the Kentucky Oaks as well as the Breeders' Cup. He currently serves as a commissioner on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, a position he will resign in order to accept the executive director position.

KHRC Chairman Robert M. Beck, Jr., Vice Chair Tracy Farmer and Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Robert Vance conducted extensive interviews, and Ward emerged as their top choice.  Beck says Gov. Beshear's appointment of Ward as the new executive director is the right call.

“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 has also served on various horse industry commissions and councils under former Governors Brown and Patton. He is a founding member and past president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) where he helped in the implementation of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. Ward 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.”

Ward said he will surrender his Kentucky trainer's license once he assumes his new position.

  • Tryandkeepup

    Shame that Ward it best friends with Robert Beck, Tracy Farmer and Beshear.  Couldn’t have “bought” himself the position.  Can’t believe that he was the best example of a person with integrity when he and his wife have blasted through the thoroughbred industry and ruined so many peoples lives.  The only good thing about this is that he has to give up his training license.

  • voiceofreason

    “While Kentucky has made great strides in the past five years to address the safety and integrity of Thoroughbred racing…”

    Hahahaha. Great strides??????

    Looks like John should get in touch with EQB or one of those folks in the stride analysis businesses. They could see if he has the “heart score” to do the right thing, also.

  • Garrett Redmond

    If John Ward’s wife takes out a trainer’s license, will it raise questions of conflict of interest?

  • Garrett Redmond

    Ruined so many lives ?  In fairness: Examples please?

  • I think he is a pretty good choice

  • Tryandkeepup


    Can’t name names as the Wards go to extraordinary lengths to find people on the backside and try and get them further in trouble even if they didn’t do anything wrong, but they perceive to make themselves believe that the person was the worst human being on the planet.  Running joke that all employees start out as great and then as time goes on, they will find faults with them until they finally run the person off.  It was never THEIR fault.  

    Just find any person that has worked for him as a foreman, assistant trainer, groom or exercise rider and 98% of them will tell you that they would NEVER go to work for the Ward’s ever again.  

    It is just a shame that people believe him to be a great choice to guide the racing commission.  Shows that you have to have friends in high places.  Thank goodness that the backside is “safe” again for some of us!

  • Typical

    Here’s how the conversation probably went:
    John: Hey guys, my training stable has dwindled to nothing from not winning any races in the last 5 years and I need some income. Can you do me a favor and make me the head of the KHRC? I really could use a hand.

    Guys: Sure thing, John.

  • Jsmith

    She shouldnt be allowed to train.  Total conflict of interest.  Even if he plays fair with her, to the rest of the racing world it will look at it as corrupt – but thats how the public sees racing anyway.

  • no bute

    Ky old boy network at work again,  Next move to NTRA.

  • Lisa Wintermote

    Congratulations John! Both John and Donna are CLASS acts and I wish them all the best!

  • Bellwether


  • James Staples


  • Nick Kling

     Earth to critics.  This is the 21st Century.  Married couples are not defined by their spouse’s occupation, any more than a brother or sister is defined by a sibling’s job, or a child by a parent.

    It’s a new world out there.

  • BuckyinKentucky

    This is sad for my handicapping strategies, rarely did he win and was usually a great bet against.
    In regards to this appointment lets hope he realizes that he works for the people of the Commonwealth and not a select few of the Ivory Tower crowd.

  • Forthegood

    At a time when Kentucky racing needs strong leadership it is promising to have someone with a life long passion for horse racing at the helm.  From many of the other comments looks like the pressure is on to prove what he can do at a time when there are so many challenges.  But John Ward is not a stranger to stepping into a significant challenge.  We should all wish him well and throw him our support. 

  • voiceofreason

    Yes! Blindly, because the leadership has stewarded the sport so well! We wish you well! Woo HOO!

  • Don Reed

    Excellent news.  Finally, an intelligent choice. 

  • Don Reed

    Complete slander, or libel, whichever applies.

    It’s obvious that T&K Up has no facts, and is grinding an individual ax.

  • Garrett Redmond

     Right or wrong, people are defined by all kinds of relationships especially in any type of job related to public service. It runs the gamut from President of these United States to municipal dogcatcher.  In that respect we are still in the 19th Century.

    I don’t know the “earth” from which you comment, but, suggest you check reality.  Try applying for an Owner’s license in Kentucky.  Consider all the questions about family.  Why do you think such questions are asked?

  • Garrett Redmond

    Tell us about that significant challenge.  How did it pan out – success or failure?

  • Forthegood

    When thrown on board to captain a sinking ship could it have been saved?
    Some may think so but its doubtful. 

  • Forthegood

    And your better solution is . . . . . . .

  • Garrett Redmond

    To what are you referring?  You have not answered the question.

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