Updated on 01/25/2016 3:37PM

Ward out as executive director of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission


LEXINGTON, Ky. – John Ward, the Kentucky Derby-winning trainer who has been the executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission since 2012, has left the commission but plans to remain in the racing industry.

Ward said on Monday that he was informed by members of the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican with Tea Party ties, that there would “be a change” at the commission. He then worked with the administration to leave the commission in an orderly manner, Ward said, and his last working day was Thursday.

“This is the first morning in 50 years that I haven’t had a responsibility,” Ward said.

While at the commission, Ward, 70, often supported efforts to more tightly regulate medications, usually in opposition to the state’s horsemen’s group.

Ward’s departure leaves the commission without an executive director or a chairman. Late last year, just after Bevin was elected to replace outgoing Democrat Steve Beshear, chairman Robert Beck resigned after seven years at the helm.

Officials with ties to the Bevin administration have said that the governor and his staff have not yet run any names by racing-industry officials for the open spots on the commission. The commission has not held a full meeting since Dec. 1, when Beck resigned, and has not scheduled another commission meeting.

Changes in gubernatorial administrations have often preceded wholesale changes at the racing commission. In 2008, shortly after taking office for the first of his two terms, Beshear dissolved the racing commission and reformed it with his own appointees. His two gubernatorial predecessors had done the same.

Ward, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2001 with Monarchos, said he does not plan to return to training but plans to remain in the industry. Ward and his wife, Donna, have homes in Kentucky, Florida, and Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“I’m still very dedicated to improving the industry,” Ward said.