Born on March 3, 1968, in Selah, only child Wesley Ward’s roots in horse racing go deep. His father Dennis Ward started out as a jockey and then became is a successful trainer. His mother Jeanne also was a trainer, and her father, Jim Dailey, was a steeplechase rider who became a prominent New York outrider for 29 years.
Wesley began his riding career at the track at age 12, competing in fair meets in Washington, Montana, British Columbia and Alberta where he won 158 of 300 starts.
He spent his first “official” season riding at Aqueduct, Belmont and The Meadowlands – and was the leading rider at the latter two.
On his sixteenth birthday, in his initial New York starts, he rode three runners at Aqueduct. His first winner, in his sixth mount, came the following day on Irish Liberal.
His agent was Lenny Goodman, who had also guided Steve Cauthen’s career.
After winning the Eclipse Award for apprentice jockey at age 16, Wesley said “Ever since I was eight years old I wanted to be a jockey.”
Ward later rode in Italy, Singapore and Malaysia before hanging up his tack in 1989 due to weight issues.
In his six years of riding in North America he won 749 races – including the 1988 Longacres Derby (G3) aboard He’s a Cajun – with $11.2-million in purses.
In 1990, after spending the summer galloping horses for his dad back in Washington, Wesley took out his trainer’s license. He saddled his first starter and winner, Mariani Red, at Yakima Meadows on January 6, 1991.The young horseman then shifted his barn to Southern California where his first stakes win came with Unfinished Symph in the 1994 Will Rogers Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. The four-time graded stakes winner would finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) that year.
In 2009, Ward became the first American trainer to saddle a winner at Royal Ascot when Strike the Tiger won the Windsor Castle Stakes and Jealous Again took the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. Since then he has had four more stakes victories at the prestigious meet: 2013 Norfolk Stakes (G2) with No Nay Never; 2014 Windsor Castle with Hootenanny; 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (G1) with Undrafted; and 2015 Queen Mary with two-year-old Acapulco, who would later finish second against older horses in the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
In 2014, Hootenanny took the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and the Ward-owned Judy the Beauty’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) would assure her the Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter. Ward had four other entrants in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup, adding a trio of seconds and one third for the two-day championships.
Judy the Beauty was retired from racing after the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships with earnings just shy of $1.8-million.
In 2010 the Ward-trained Madman Diaries was named Canadian champion two-year-old colt.
Among the other Ward-trained graded stakes winners are: Holiday for Kitten, Men’s Exclusive, Omega Code, Bear Fan, Pleasant Prince, Final Mesa, Flashpoint and Dave Mowat’s Grade 1 winner Sunset Glow. Both Men’s Exclusive and Bear Fan shipped to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen (G1) where Men’s Exclusive ran second in 2001 and fourth in 2002 and Bear Fan ran fifth in 2005.
Long known for breaking his own horses and his propensity for doing well with two-year-olds, Ward has dominated the juvenile races at Keeneland since 2007. His trainee One Hot Wish set a 4 1/2-furlong world record at the Kentucky track in April 2007.
Through May 25, 2016, Ward has had 1,460 wins among 7,312 North American starts and his trainees have earned nearly $46.5-million.
Ward moved to Florida in 2006 and lives in Ocala with his wife Kimberly and their three children, Riley, Jackson and Denae.