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FIVE MINUTES WITH . JOHN T. WARD JR.
Kentucky Derby-winning trainer John T. Ward
Jr. assumed his new duties as executive direc-
Ward, a central Kentucky native and a graduate of
tor of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
the University of Kentucky, grew up immersed in the
this spring with an overflowing agenda of is-
horse industry as his father, grandfather, and uncle all
sues facing the regulatory organization and the
Commonwealth’s horse industry in general.
Ward established his own reputation through the
years and reached a career peak when he trained 2001
race-day furosemide (Salix, commonly referred
Derby winner Monarchos for his longtime clients John
to as Lasix) in graded and listed stakes races
Ward, who relinquished training duties to his wife
and business partner Donna upon taking his new job,
spent several minutes with THOROUGHBRED TIMES TODAY
assistant editor Patrick Reed discussing the future of
Kentucky’s racing, current trends in promoting racing,
Date of birth: August 2, 1945 Residence: Paris, Kentucky Family: wife, Donna
You are assuming your new position at KHRC during an
I always like to compare sports to other sports. And I guess,
era when Kentucky’s racetracks have in many cases reduced
just sitting here thinking about it, it’s like having a National Bas-
race dates and continue to operate without added gaming rev-
ketball Association team that has the best athletes playing with
enue. How do you see Kentucky’s racing industry remaining
five men on the court versus another team playing with six
guys. The sixth team member would in this case be the Lasix
(The passage of a casino bill) is something out of my con-
trol. As far as this commission goes, it’s not something that I
In baseball, it’s like having an extra player on the field. In
can affect. What I can affect is the quality of racing in this state
football, you always see these great plays done when there are
and getting a really good pari-mutuel signal out there, which
twelve men on the field. And if you look at hockey—and I’m
should be the signature of our Kentucky racing industry.
not a huge hockey fan—what is the greatest penalty a hockey
And the other unique thing is that it’s time we start looking
team can have? When you have a man penalized and they’re
at other alternatives, different ways to use our pari-mutuel in-
dustry. There are a lot of people out there that are starting to
Essentially, Lasix is that extra man in a competition. It’s al-
have ideas about different types of bets and different betting
right trying to play six against six, but five against six doesn’t
platforms and different scenarios that use racing as the basis
in their pari-mutuel pools. I think we’ve got to look very closeat that.
What other elements of racing could be examined and pos-
We get so locked in to win-place-show and (exacta and tri-
sibly reformed to help the sport gain fans?
fecta betting) that sometimes we forget about the act of horse
I think that all of the different scenarios that go along with
producing a race that is going to be televised and promoted as
In my field, there’s the sport of horse racing and the busi-
a major sporting event—we just need to look at everything that
ness of horse racing. And a lot of times, they are not necessar-
If you’ll go back to the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) in England
(won by Frankel on June 19 at Royal Ascot), go back and watch
What is your opinion of Kentucky racetracks’ marketing
the riders as far as their use of the whip in that race. There was
initiatives in recent years, such as the success of Churchill
nothing visually disturbing about it. And each one of those
Downs showcasing racing as part of a larger entertainment
So, if you’re a neophyte sporting fan and wanted to watch a
I think that any time we do something different using our
great athlete, you are not going to be turned off by anything
product of racing, people that are very set in their ways that
don’t like change are going to react negatively to it. But I think,over the last four or five years, we’re seeing racetracks start-
In light of the commission’s vote on Salix and of the other is-
ing to take chances and starting to look at our business in a dif-
sues facing Kentucky’s Thoroughbred industry, what is your out-
look for the KHRC and your overall goal as chief regulator?
And, they’ve had some successes, and they’ve probably had
We’re going to keep on moving forward. And that means—
more failures. But the experience is, they are starting to repeat
we’re not going to do anything radical—but my goal is to make
their successes. And the failures are starting to go away. So I
sure that we have the best simulcast signal there is, and we’re
see the total scenario starting to work.
going to ask people to prove that they’ve got one as good as wehave.
With regards to the KHRC’s recent vote, how do you think
And we’re going to (move forward) with concern that the in-
the gradual phase-out of Salix will benefit Kentucky racing?
dustry—the trainers and owners are totally included in this—
I just think that there are a lot of owners out there that would
that they are able to compete fairly for the purse, and that no
like to be able to participate in like company.
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