Day At The Track

First winning double after a 50-year wait

08:43 PM 23 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Ken Ward with the Auckland Reactor weanling filly
Ken Ward with the Auckland Reactor weanling filly that he says is the best he has had

The Kilmore track is always going to hold a special place in the heart of long-time harness racing owner-trainer-breeder Ken Ward.

Ward, who is based at Chintin, near Romsey, an hour north of Melbourne, landed a winning double at the Kilmore meeting – his first in over 50 years in the sport.

“It’s certainly been a long time coming, but I don’t prepare big numbers, so I’ve probably been a little restricted,” Ward said.

“I really regard harness racing as a bit like riding a ferris wheel though, and you’ve got enjoy the high-points!”

Ward took out the Jet Roofing Pace with six-year-old gelding Village Skipper (Village Jasper USA-Skipper Patricia (Cam’s Trickster USA) then scored later in the program in the Kilmore Art Expo Pace Final with four-year-old gelding Jamieson Steele (Million Dollar Cam USA-Lady Jade Skipper (Safe and Sound).

Both winners were handled in expert fashion by David Miles, who is in brilliant form at the moment.

“It’s probably a little different than most people, but we’ve never raced a horse which we haven’t bred ourselves,” Ward explained.

“I guess it’s a bit special when you go the whole journey with them, starting off with the breeding part, then watching them grow in the paddock, sorting out names, education and then getting to the track,” he said.

Jamieson Steele

“All of our horses originate from one mare, Bye Bye Jade (Adios Green-Pleasing (Dancer Hanover) that I got many years ago from my grandfather the late Jack McKay.”

“Minyip Jack”, as he was known, was an owner and trainer, who partnered with the famous Melbourne Showgrounds trainer, Jack McKay, who ironically shared the same name, but was no relation.

Despite his family involvement, Ward said his interest in the sport probably went back to when he was a young schoolboy and spent many hours watching Gisborne trainer Bernie Robinson prepare his team, headed by the smart pacer, Heroic Action.

“I pretty much had the bug back then and have always loved horses,” he said.

“We’re lucky because for us it’s a real family affair.  My wife Pat and I breed them, and we race them in partnership with one of our daughters Carissa, who is our eldest, and who works in payroll administration in Melbourne. Our other daughter Hailey also loves getting involved.”

Village Skipper is now a four times winner, posting three of his victories this season.

The gelding was responsible for a huge run at Kilmore. After settling at least 10 lengths off the lead after being caught wide early, he later went three and four wide down the back for the last time. In a war of attrition, Village Skipper got the upper hand to score.

“He can hit a knee a little and there’s some maintenance needed with him, but he does put in,” Ward said.

“I actually told young Jayden Barker, who works for our driver David Miles, that he could take the horse home win, lose or draw. At my age, my word is my bond so despite winning the race, Jayden now has him for 12 months.

“Jayden gets a junior claim so he should have some fun with him.”

Ken Ward

The second leg of the memorable Ward double was recorded by Jamieson Steele, in a strong performance from a back-row draw.

“It took him 18 starts to break his maiden status because he was a big, slow learner,” Ward said.

“To be honest I really didn’t like the horse much at all in the early days. Then one day I took the block winkers off and put a shadow roll on and he settled down greatly,” he said.

“Now he’s putting it together and learning how to follow helmets and I think he has a bright future.  This season has been quite good with two wins and three placings from seven outings.”

Ward is pinning his hopes on a trio of two-year-olds, sired by Roll With Joe, Grinfromeartoear and Julius Caesar.

“I also have an Auckland Reactor weanling filly out of a lovely mare in Skip On Broadway.  She looks the goods and is without doubt the best-looking horse I’ve had in 11 or 12 years,” he said.

The Ward stable has produced a few handy performers over the years including Skipper Carissa, a winner of 15 races (eight of these at Moonee Valley) and 20 placings; and Haileys Skipper, who recorded 13 wins (one metropolitan) and 24 placings.

“We have a 70-acre property and all of us are involved. I recently retired after working as a Lands Inspector and in the Quarantine service, so I’m full-time with the horses now,” he said.

“I may have a team of four in training soon, although with winter approaching, perhaps three is the ideal number.”

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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