09/17/2011 5:10PM

Kentucky Downs: Ward wins 1,000th race with Cozy Kitten in Franklin-Simpson Mile

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Trainer Wesley Ward hit the 1,000-win milestone Saturday by sending out Cozy Kitten to capture the $50,000 Franklin-Simpson Mile at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky.

Ridden by Julio Garcia, Cozy Kitten prevailed by three-quarters of a length for his first stakes win and just his second overall in eight career starts. Cozy Kitten, bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, is a 3-year-old who was facing older rivals.

“To get 1,000 for Mr. Ramsey is really special,” Ward said. “I got No. 999 with Pleasant Prince for him Thursday at Belmont Park, so to come right back for him was really a thrill. Bobby Frankel hooked me up with Mr. Ramsey about seven years ago, and it’s one of the main reasons I returned to the East Coast after all my years in California.”

Cozy Kitten circled wide to collar Bergerac, the race-long front-runner, before edging away in the final furlong. He returned $6.80 to win, with Bergerac, the 3-1 second choice, finishing another half-length before Karama in a field of nine. Nowhere to Hide was fourth. Cozy Kitten was timed in 1:40.70 for the mile over firm turf.

Ward was at home in Florida earlier in the day to take his son to a soccer game, then flew into the Cincinnati airport, where he watched the Franklin-Simpson Mile at Turfway Park before driving to Keeneland to return to the yearling sales.

Ward, 43, won the Eclipse Award for top apprentice in 1984 before ending his riding career in 1989. He opened his stable in 1991. He joked that he is ready to win another thousand races – and more.

“I’m chasing Jerry Hollendorfer,” he said with a laugh, referring to the California-based Hall of Fame trainer who notched his 6,000th win earlier this month.

Ward had a chance earlier in the day to win No. 1,000 at Arlington Park with Saar, but the gelding finished third in the fourth race.

Kentucky Downs closes its four-day meet Monday.