Updated on 09/18/2011 2:02AM

Trainer profile: Wesley Ward

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Wesley Ward adeptly spots maidens where they can win at Fairplex Park.

POMONA, Calif. - A bullring track in Republic, Wash., left an indelible mark on Wesley Ward's first career as a jockey, and his second career as a trainer. "It was the first meet I rode, I was 12 years old, on a track just shy of half a mile," Ward recalled. And it may help explain how Ward quietly emerges as a key trainer each fall during the Los Angeles County Fair meet, run on the five-eighths mile track at Fairplex Park. Fairplex opened Sept. 8, and Ward figures to win about a half-dozen races during the 16-day meet, with maidens, claimers, and un-established allowance runners. But Ward can also train a good horse. He proved it with top female sprinter Bear Fan, graded stakes turf horse Unfinished Symph, and millionaire sprinter Men's Exclusive. Ward was 16 when he won the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey in 1984, and soon outgrew his profession. He turned to training and became the assistant for his father, Dennis, before going out on his own. Once a year, Ward returns to his bullring roots by racing at Fairplex, where his five-year win rate is 34 percent (33 for 96). "The big thing at the fair is that first turn; you have to plan for the first turn when you go into the gate," Ward said. "You don't necessarily have to be in front, but if you're parked wide into that first turn, it's awfully hard to win. "A lot of the horses and riders don't know that first turn," Ward said, "If you're outside them you're [in trouble]. If they don't know that first turn, they're going to bolt and take you out with them." Ward has 24 horses under his care at Fairplex; the remainder of his 40-plus stable is at Santa Anita under the watchful eye of Ward's assistant, Blake Heap. Ward expects to run 20 or more horses at the fair. If history repeats, at least six of those will win. "It's a mix [of categories]," he said. "I've got quite a few 2-year-olds that haven't run yet. Some 2-year-olds take a while with shins and little problems. I gave them time, and they're ready to go." Nearly half of Ward's winners at Fairplex since 2001 have been maidens. "It's a little easier to win at Pomona. You get a horse that ran third or fourth in a maiden-32, and you bring them to Pomona, you catch a weak field that you wouldn't catch at Del Mar. It gives you a real good chance for a horse to break its maiden and get some confidence." Ward said he will spread out his business among different riders, which would be a shift. From his last 33 Fairplex winners, 20 were ridden by the track's all-time leading rider, Martin Pedroza. "A big advantage [at the fair] is the rider," Ward said. "A lot of riders are great riders on the big tracks, but not small tracks. I'm going to use all the riders, and spread them out with the guys that have been helping me out.