Barn Notes 12/28/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

Dan Ward is a San Diego native, but he became rooted in the Eastern and Central time zones as an assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer after the Hall of Fame trainer began making Oaklawn in Arkansas and Monmouth Park in New Jersey a circuit for a division of his stable in 2020.

Ward jokingly noted before the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting began Dec. 8, the Southern California-based Hollendorfer was, geographically speaking, a hands-off trainer.

After working 22 years under the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and the last 16 for Hollendorfer, Ward is now making a name for himself as a trainer after going out on his own in early July at Monmouth. Hollendorfer jumpstarted the move, transferring 29 of his horses to Ward, his longtime assistant.

Ward has had a solid start to his solo career. Since officially going out on his own in July, Ward has 17 victories from 99 starts and purse earnings of $669,146. He won nine races at Monmouth, five at Delaware Park and two at the Meadowlands. The 17th winner, and first at Oaklawn as the trainer of record, came Dec. 17 with Efficiency ($7.60), a former Hollendorfer horse. Hollendorfer has 41 victories at Oaklawn since 2020.

Ward said he has approximately 20 horses at Oaklawn. Major clients include Hollendorfer holdovers like Arkansas-based Tri-Star Racing (Richard Robertson and Alan Dean) and Brad’s Equine Adventure (New Jersey resident Carla Altschuld). Tri-Star co-owned Efficiency, who was claimed out of his victory for $15,000. Ward also now has a handful of horses for Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, Oaklawn’s leading owner after the first five days of racing.

Ward said his roster, at the moment, leans toward claimers.

“Got to work your way up,” Ward said. “I look at these people that started out after working for (Todd) Pletcher and Chad Brown. They had like five, 10 horses and all of a sudden, they’ve got a big barn. It takes time. You’ve got to get great horses, too.”

Ward said he plans to make Oaklawn and Monmouth his primary circuit. Ward also ran Frankel’s Oaklawn division when the Southern California-based trainer won six races at the 1982 meeting.

Finish Lines

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Friday for Monday’s $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. Lengthened to 1 1/16-miles this season, the Smarty Jones offers 21 total points (10-5-3-2-1, respectively) to the top five finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby. … Apprentice jockey Carlos Barbosa is scheduled to make his Oaklawn riding debut in Friday’s second race aboard Cabot. Barbosa, 19, is native of Puerto Rico and has 23 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, with the bulk coming earlier this year at Finger Lakes in New York. Barbosa, who has a 7-pound apprentice weight allowance, is represented by agent Bobby Dean. … Trainer Kenny McPeek enters Friday with 1,982 career North American victories, according to Equibase. McPeek has four horses entered Friday at Oaklawn, including 2022 Preakness third Creative Minister in the ninth race, a $141,000 allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 1 mile. McPeek has 78 career victories at Oaklawn, including three this season.