05/31/2004 11:00PM

Ward's pair will try to break slump


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer John T. Ward Jr. is someone who can poke fun at himself when things aren't proceeding exactly to plan. From his first 41 starters this year, Ward had won just three times, prompting a self-deprecating comment about "getting my percentages up" when reached by phone recently.

Of course, Ward can always comfort himself with the knowledge that he has won a Kentucky Derby, having done so in 2001 with Monarchos, although that bit of history won't necessarily win him another single race in the future. In fact, Ward admits that his barn is in a prolonged slump, although he essentially promised that that won't last forever.

"We've actually got some nice young horses coming up," he said. "You've just got to be patient with them."

In the meantime, Ward will try to improve on his subpar 2004 win percentage when he drives in from Lexington to send out a pair of live runners Thursday at Churchill Downs. Ward has horses in each of the allowance races that share top billing on a 10-race card: in the ninth, a $47,900 first-level allowance.

Of the two, Grand Score probably stands the better chance. Last fall, it appeared as if the colt had a chance to become a contender for the spring classics, but he was slightly injured when finishing third as the second choice in the Iroquois Stakes. He has never really been the same since, according to Ward.

"The Iroquois really did a number on him," said Ward. "We've run him the one time since then," in February at Gulfstream Park, "and he just didn't run to par. Fortunately, it looks like we've got everything worked out now. I think the main thing people need to look at are the works he's had here at Keeneland the last few weeks. They've been terrific."

Ward said he believes that Bold Truth, a 5-year-old horse by Seattle Slew, also stands to improve in a big way over his lone start this year, a race in which he never threatened.

"He's had operations on both knees within the last year," he said. "You can't be too careful bringing back the Seattle Slews. We're looking at getting him to go long, so this race is a step toward that."

Besides the allowance co-features, the Thursday card also includes two starter allowances (races 3 and 7). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.