ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – It had already been a remarkable day in what has already been a remarkable year for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Yet in the immediate aftermath of the 31st running of the Grade I Arlington Million, the patriarch of the Nicholasville-based clan was standing on the rail absorbing what he thought was the sting of having one of the most coveted top-level races barely slip away.
This is, however, 2013 – a season the loquacious Ken Ramsey has already declared the best ever in the history of his Eclipse Award-winning operation. And even though the Ramseys’ homebred Real Solution didn’t cross the wire in front of Arlington Park’s signature turf test didn’t mean they were going to be denied another epic celebration.
Having already won two Grade I races on the day within a span of about 20 minutes of each other, the Ramseys ultimately snatched the red and white blanket of flowers given to the winner of the Arlington Million when Real Solution was declared the winner via disqualification when stewards ruled South Africa invader The Apache drifted out into and interfered with Real Solution during their stirring stretch duel.
Given the collective mojo the Ramsey outfit had pushing their horses forward - both on Saturday and for the year to date – it is fitting that they can’t lose even when it seems fate swings against them. Moments after gathering around an Arlington Park television to watch homebred Big Blue Kitten win the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational on the turf at Saratoga, the Ramsey entourage hustled to the rail to see yet another homebred, Admiral Kitten, run down Stormy Len to take the Grade I, $500,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf by 1 1/4 lengths. Hindsight now tells us the fist pumping and hollering wasn’t even close to reaching its pinnacle from the owners who currently lead the nation in earnings. When Real Solution made his charge down the middle of the Arlington turf course and appeared to draw even with The Apache only to get nipped a head at the wire, Ken Ramsey somberly stared at the tote board in disbelief. Then, the bright red objection sign went up, followed shortly by the telling head-on shot of the stretch run. Several minutes later, the red and white Ramsey silks were making yet another venture to their second home known as the winner’s circle. “I kept saying yes, no, yes no. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat,” said Ramsey, his beaming smile framed by the blanket of flowers he had wore like badge of honor around his shoulders. “I can’t express myself now, I’ve run out of words. This is one of the highlights of my career.
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“We have a tradition in our farm where we put a big sign on all the barns that have a Grade I winner so now I’ve got to paint one for Big Blue Kitten, Admiral Kitten and one for Real Solution. We might have to keep building some more barns.”
Though he doesn’t bear the familiar feline moniker, Real Solution – like his fellow Grade I winners Saturday – is a son of the Ramseys’ leading sire Kitten’s Joy, who had his championship career cut short when he was retired due to injury weeks after running second as the favorite in the 2005 edition of the Arlington Million. Ken Ramsey’s desire to develop Kitten’s Joy into an international stallion was part of the reason Real Solution began his career in Italy where he won his first three starts before a lung infection slowed his progress. In his second stateside outing, the 4-year-old bay colt ran third to multiple Grade I winner Point of Entry in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont on June 8, beaten just a length and a half.
“The lung infection was real bad and (trainer) Chad (Brown) spent all this time bringing him back,” Ramsey. “My horse had wrenched an ankle about 4-5 weeks before the Manhattan sohe was a little short that day. Today, he had no excuses.”
Sent off at odds of 8-to-1, Real Solution tucked in along the rail four from the back of the 13-horse field as defending race winner Little Mike had Mull of Killough nudging him through opening fractions of :24.34 and :48.99.
Both of those two began to give way at the head of the lane following their front-running battle of wills, clearing the way for the well-regarded The Apache to strike the front in the final furlong. At the same time, jockey Alan Garcia had picked off rivals and motored Real Solution to clear running on the outside path.
The inspiration behind the glare Garcia shot The Apache’s rider, Christophe Soumillon became clear one the head-on replay was shone as The Apache kept coming out under Soumillon’s left-handed urging.
“At the top of the stretch, I had plenty of horse to go by and the other horse bumped us more than four times,” Garcia said. “It that doesn’t happen, we might have won by two or three lengths.”
Countered Soumillon “We had the better horse but he got scared by the infield screen and shifted out. But we were the best horse.”
Little Mike faded to sixth, ending his bid to become the first back-to-back Million hero, while 5-to-2 favorite Indy Point dropped out of the running around the far turn and finished last.
Final time for the 1 1/4-miles race was 2:00.99 over a course rated firm.
The Ramseys did have a pang of defeat when their filly Artemus Kitten ran eighth in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Beverly D which was won by 4 1/4 lengths by European invader Dank.
With an arsenal of runners fueled by the talented bloodlines of his homebred, champion stallion, Ramsey can’t be faulted for thinking more history is his for the taking is the months to come.
“It’s the best year we’ve ever had, bar none” Ramsey said. “I mean even the year we had three in the Breeders’ Cup, this is the best year we’ve had. All these Kitten’s Joys can run some and some of them can run a whole lot. I can’t believe where we’re standing.”
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.