Ward Eyeing Big Day During New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival

OCEANPORT, N.J. – It hasn’t taken Dan Ward long to appreciate the value of having Jersey-breds as a Monmouth Park-based trainer.

Of the 30 horses he oversees since Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer transferred his Monmouth Park and Oaklawn divisions to Ward on July 1, eight are Jersey-breds. Six of those will run during Sunday’s 10-race New Jersey Thoroughbred Festival, a full card showcasing state-breds.

Ward’s Sunday septet includes Wild Mule in the $100,000 New Jersey Breeders Handicap and Oddsondustymiller in the $100,000 Eleven North Handicap, the co-features on the program

“I’m a regular now with Jersey-breds,” said Ward, who has seven winners from 31 starters since going on his own full-time last month.

Ward also has first-time starter Midheirflyinghigh in the first $71,875 maiden special weight race and first-time starter Courageous Wildcat in the other $71,875 maiden special weight race. Both are 2-year-olds.

In between he will saddle Country Miles in an optional claimer and Sunshine Charlie in an optional claimer. Both races carry purses of $75,000, giving Ward the chance at a lucrative afternoon.

“What would a good day be?” he said. “I think Sunshine Charlie has a really good chance and I think Wild Mule has a good chance. If all of the horses run well and come back healthy we’ll be happy.”

Wild Mule, a 3-year-old son of Army Mule owned and bred by New Farm, comes off a fourth-place finish against open company in the Jersey Shore Handicap on Aug. 5 at Monmouth Park. That marked his first race back since May 14 – and the only loss in four career starts he has had at Monmouth Park.

“He needed the race,” said Ward. “He had a bad start or he might have been able to finish in the money. He got bumped at the start and lost his position the first part of the race. “But he finished strong. I thought he ran a good race. He likes this track and we got a race in him so I think he should improve.”

The New Jersey Breeders Handicap, at six furlongs for 3 year olds and up, drew a field of nine.

Oddsondustymiller comes in off a win in a $15,000 state-bred optional claimer in the first start since being claimed by Ward for owner Brads Equine Adventure.

“We’ve claimed a lot of horses and have taken the blinkers off with good success, with Oddsondustymiller being one of those,” Ward said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It worked with Sunshine Charlie and it worked with Oddsondustymiller.

“We’re a longshot in this race. She has to run a faster race but she has been competitive in some of these state-bred stakes races before.”  The Eleven North Handicap, for fillies and mares 3 and up, is also at six furlongs. Ten are entered.

Both Wild Mule and Oddsondustymiller are seeking their first career stakes win.

Midheirflyinghigh, a colt by Tapiture owned by New Farm, and Courageous Wildcat, a filly by Paynter also owned by New Farm, both turned in works from the gate on Thursday that have Ward encouraged about their debuts.

“With first-time starts you never know, but they both had good gate works on Thursday so it’s time to get them started,” he said.

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