02/27/2012 3:04PM

Ward named executive director of Kentucky racing commission

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – John Ward, the trainer of the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner, Monarchos, has been appointed executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, effective April 1, and will surrender his training license, according to Kentucky government officials.

Ward, 66, has been a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission since 2003. He will fill a position vacated by the resignation of Lisa Underwood, who had been the executive director for five years before resigning last November to return to private law practice.

In a release distributed by the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the commission, Ward said that he would surrender his training license when the appointment becomes effective. Ward and his wife, Donna, operate John T. Ward Stables in Paris, an operation that they have gradually reduced in size and scope over the past five years.

During his tenure on the racing commission, Ward has been sympathetic to horsemen’s concerns about the use of therapeutic medications, but he has also called for tougher penalties for trainers whose horses test positive for powerful performance-enhancing drugs that are administered deliberately. He has also frequently expressed concern over the safety and welfare of racehorses, and has supported projects at the commission designed to assess risk factors for injuries on the racetrack.

“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 to do,” Ward said in a prepared statement.