Ramseys finish record-setting Keeneland meet down a key cog

awincze@herald-leader.comApril 26, 2013 

As the 2013 Keeneland Spring Meet clicked off the final 10 races of its 16-day run, Ken Ramsey found himself juggling a few duties he is most masterful at.

He was all too happy to discuss his record-setting Keeneland meet and upcoming Kentucky Derby starter, but the Nicholasville-based owner had to break away and quick foot it to the rail to watch his entry Live in Joy and Let's Do It run 1-2, respectively, in the day's third race.

Fast forward a couple hours later and Ramsey was hoisting the Keeneland gold tray — given to owners who win eight graded stakes at the track — and holding court again after his former claimer Dark Cove posted a mild upset in the Grade II Elkhorn Stakes by a widening 41/4 lengths.

In between leading his charges to the winner's circle and doling out time to those inquiring about his operation's command of the boutique meet, Ramsey made a quick back-and-forth trip to be by the side of the toughest, most inspirational member of the clan.

Sarah and Ken Ramsey have been the unofficial royal couple of the Kentucky circuit for the better part of the last decade, ranking as the all-time leading owners at Churchill Downs and wrapping up their 12th Keene-land leading owner title with an all-time record of 25 wins as the Spring Meet reached its conclusion Friday.

A week from now, the Ramsey family hopes to bring the Twin Spires to the ground with an epic celebration should their Charming Kitten pull off a victory in the 139th Kentucky Derby.

Even more overwhelming than Ken Ramsey's desire to hold the gold Derby hardware is his hope that Sarah Ramsey is feeling up to being by his side. Sarah Ramsey was admitted to UK Hospital on Thursday with complications from a stroke she suffered in February 2007, lending an emotional tinge to what has been a months-long run of dominance that also saw the couple win the Gulfstream Park owners title.

"You do what you have to do and if you've never been a caregiver until it's thrust upon you, you don't know what it's like," Ken Ramsey said after Dark Cove's Elkhorn win. "But we're thankful for what we've still got rather than what we lost.

"She was looking forward to being in the winner's circle with them but it didn't turn out that way. She said for me to go on (to the track) but ... if I thought something was going to happen, I wouldn't be out here. Hopefully we'll be able to take her up to Churchill Downs. If she's able to go, she'll go."

The horses charged with carrying the Ramseys' red and white silks have certainly done their part to keep the mood of all around spirited.

The 25 victories by the Ramseys shattered the prior all-time mark for most wins by an owner at a single Keene-land mee. They had previously been tied with Calumet Farm (Spring 1941) and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Roberts (Fall 1968) with 12.

Twenty of those winners were saddled by Mike Maker — who also established the all-time record for wins by a trainer in a Keeneland meet with 25. When Ken Ramsey sensed the record was within reach, he made no bones about the fact he was going to flood the entry boxes with runners in ideal spots.

The fact he also had leading rider Joel Rosario aboard for 18 of those wins didn't hurt one bit.

"You want him riding on your side, not riding against you," Ramsey said of Rosario, who won a Spring Meet record 38 races in his first full-time Keeneland meet. "We never get the first-round draft prices at the sales, we just don't. But you can sometimes claim these horses for 10-15 cents on the dollar and if they're a good horse with good breeding, you can bring it out.

"We've been very fortunate. Mike (Maker) knows what he's doing and I do my homework on the pedigree and analysis and find out who is running on the wrong surface or wrong distance. I've been at the game a long time. I guess you could say I'm good and I know I'm good and that makes me very dangerous."

Ramsey wears his confidence as proudly as he does his megawatt grin. And for what it is worth, he is feeling awfully bullish about Charming Kitten's prospects for May 4.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Charming Kitten ran third in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 13, beaten just a half length by winner Java's War.

A homebred son of Ramsey's stallion Kitten's Joy, Charming Kitten has yet to run on dirt but could move up in form should the track come up wet.

"If it should rain over there I think instead of (2009 Derby winner) Mine That Bird coming down that rail, it could be mine that Kitten coming down the middle of the track," Ramsey laughed. "I'm cautiously optimistic. We're going to go off 25-30-to-1 but I think he fits. (To win), that would be something special."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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