07/07/2010 11:00PM

Q&A: Wesley Ward

Barbara D. Livingston

Trainer who in 2009 became the first American to win at the Royal Ascot meet in England, where Strike the Tiger and Jealous Again both captured stakes. He won an Eclipse Award in 1984 as an apprentice rider. Ward's father, Dennis, is still an active trainer.

Birthdate: March 3, 1968, in Selah, Wash.

Residence: Hollywood, Fla.

Family: wife Kimberly; children Riley, Jack, Denae

What is your racing home base right now? "Gulfstream Park in the winter with everything, then I'm at Kentucky, New York, and Monmouth in the summer."

So you're done with California, where you used to be based? "I pulled out about five years ago. I just saw a better opportunity on the East Coast, with so many different racetracks, so many different places to run. I decided to move everything -- including my family -- to the East. I'm just starting to focus right now on getting moved up to Saratoga. I should have about 30 there, 17 or 18 2-year-olds up there. I've got some decent horses."

How many horses do you train? "I've got about 45 in the barns. That's including all my 2-year-olds and everything. I probably have 30 2-year-olds and 15 to 20 older horses."

Two-year-olds are your main thing, right? "Yeah. When I started training 20 years ago, I really wanted to stay on a major circuit, so in California I found a niche. If I had my horses prepared early, I could beat the better-bred horses with a lesser inexpensive horse who might be a little more knowledgeable going into the first race. I could get some of the bigger purses early in the year if my horses were well prepared. I've carried that over to today. I own a farm in Ocala [Fla.], and I breed and raise a lot of horses. I've got 10 or 15 broodmares of my own."

How many sales do you go to in a year? "Of course, Keeneland. I'll buy a lot of weanlings throughout the year, at Ocala, Keeneland, some of the smaller sales. In raising and having broodmares and foals my whole life, I kind of have some knowledge as to what they'll look like later when they're 6 months old. You usually pay half the money for a weanling that you'll pay for a yearling."

I've heard your friend and your former agent Steve Leving refer to a young horse as a "Wesley Ward kind of horse." Do you look for certain types? "For the better part of my career, I've trained a lot of good sprinters. I know what they'll be. I guess I look for a typier horse, a faster horse, to where you can catch them early on."

I know you rode in Italy and the Far East. Do you speak multiple languages? "I speak two languages. [Laughing] I'd say my first language is Spanish. The better part of my day I speak Spanish. I picked it up around my dad's barn when I was 10.

So your riding career was cut short by weight, right? Did you see that coming pretty early on? "Into the first year, it was already getting to be a problem. I battled it, but the last few years were just torturous. Constantly trying to reduce - it was horrendous. Riding is like a drug, especially when you start as young as I did. At 12 years old, I was riding county fairs. For the better part of my life, I was getting up and riding horses. When that's taken away from you, you're left with an uncertainty. What's next? Luckily, I went right to work with my dad and was out on my own six months later. The whole time I was riding, I knew there was going to be an end. I tried to pay attention to whatever trainer I was around. You get knowledge of how the horses train in Europe. Trainers here, they only know how to train on a racetrack. In Europe, it's totally different."

Who's the best horse you've trained? "The most talented horse I've had was Lifestyle. He didn't accomplish what he might have, but he developed a bleeding problem early on."

Why did you send the horses to England last year? You seem to run a different kind of operation than most trainers. Are you just more willing to experiment? "I'd been looking to go there for years. You win all these 2-year-old races, and you get forced into stakes. The better 2-year-olds come out, and you really don't have any chances. I have so much time in with my horses by the time Royal Ascot comes around, and I don't think they're nearly as advanced as mine are. I had Steve [Leving] go over the pedigrees with me and pick out the most likely horses. Bobby Frankel, he was a good friend of mine, and he always said to come with numbers. You go with six good ones rather than one, you've got a better chance of coming out with something.

What's the biggest thrill you get outside racing? "I really don't have a lot I like to do outside racing. It's a seven days a week kind of job, and I've always treated it that way. I guess I like to enjoy a glass of red wine or some Heinekens sometimes - that'd be about the only thing."

Do they make you wear those big hats at Ascot? Is that mandatory? "When in Rome, you've got to do what the Romans do. There was no option. You've got to put the big hat on."