Two-time Triple Crown-winning horse trainer Bob Baffert; Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the ultra-successful Nicholasville husband-and-wife Thoroughbred owners; and ex-Kentucky Wildcats football All-American Sam Ball headline a 2018 class of seven inductees into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.
Also chosen for enshrinement this year are longtime Trinity High School football coach Bob Beatty; former NBA head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, a Harlan County native; and Owensboro motorcycle racing star Nicky Hayden, who was killed last year at age 35 in Italy while training.
The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet will be held Aug. 22, 2018, at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville. For tickets or sponsorship information, call (502) 587-6742.
In operation nearly continuously since 1963, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame is in its first year being overseen by the Louisville Sports Commission. This year's class of inductees was chosen in voting by a panel of 15 sports media members from around the state.
Here is a closer look, in alphabetical order, at the class of 2018:
Sam Ball: The Henderson native, now 74, was a three-year starter (1963-65) for Coach Charlie Bradshaw at the University of Kentucky, and was a First Team All-America selection by both AP and UPI in 1965. Ball played five seasons in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts and was a member of two Super Bowl teams, including Baltimore's Super Bowl V victory over Dallas.
Bob Baffert: An Arizona native, Thoroughbred horse trainer Baffert, 65, has become synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. Baffert has won the commonwealth's signature sports event five times, with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). The latter two went on to win the Triple Crown, the only two horses to have done so since 1978. Baffert has also trained the winner of the Kentucky Oaks three times and won the Breeders' Cup Classic with American Pharoah at Keeneland in 2015.
Bob Beatty: The longtime Trinity High School football coach, 63, had led the Shamrocks to 13 Kentucky state championships. In 19 seasons as Trinity head coach, the Missouri native has compiled a record of 224-35.
Bernie Bickerstaff: A native of Benham in Harlan County, Bickerstaff, 74, is a longtime NBA coach and executive. Bickerstaff was an assistant on the staff of Coach Dick Motta when the then-Washington Bullets won the 1978 NBA title. The Harlan County native went on to serve as head coach of five NBA franchises, Seattle, Denver, Washington, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Lakers (interim), and worked as general manager for Denver and Charlotte. In 2016, Bickerstaff added a second NBA championship ring while working as a scout for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nicky Hayden: Hayden grew up in Owensboro racing dirt bikes against kids twice his age. Nicknamed "The Kentucky Kid," Hayden in 2002 became at age 21 the youngest to win the American Motorcycle Association Superbike Championship. In 2006, he reached the pinnacle of his sport by finishing first in MotoGP, the premier motorcycle racing championship in the world. In 2017, Hayden was killed when struck by a car while training on a bicycle.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey: The husband and wife team are among the most successful Thoroughbred breeders and owners in Kentucky history. Natives of Artemus in Knox County, Ken, 83, and Sarah, 79, have captured the leading owners' title 28 times at Churchill Downs racing meets and 20 times at Keeneland. The owners and operators of Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville have won four Eclipse Awards as North America's leading owner and two as leading breeder. Their horses have won four Breeders' Cup races and, in 2005, the Ramseys won the Dubai World Cup with Roses in May.
Mark Story: 859-232-3230; Twitter: @markcstory