Track Hits $30 Million in Handle
By Dick Downey
Photos by Reed Palmer Photography
Today's Headlines: Ramsey Stakes won by Kitten's Roar; Frankliin-Simpson goes to Master Merion; Ramseys, Maker Win Titles Again; Jockey Title to Leparoux; Handle Exceeds $30 Million; Purses Set Record Too
Ramsey Farm Stakes Goes to Ramseys' Kitten's Roar
The Ramsey Farm Stakes at Kentucky Downs resulted in Ken Ramsey being the grantor and recipient of the winning owner's trophy after Kitten's Roar easily dispatched the field as the 7-10 favorite.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz for trainer Mike Maker, Kitten's Roar was timed in 2:17.19 on a track rated good for the 1 5/16 mile race formerly known as the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon.
The winner's stable mate, Daring Duchess, led the field from the gate into the stretch while Kitten's Roar settled near the rail in fourth, two lengths or less off the pace. Around the far turn, Queen Blossom (IRE) challenged the leader, but after the field turned for home, the race was quickly over when Kitten's Roar burst to the lead. She led by four lengths with an eighth-mile to go, and the race was all but over as she coasted home.
Tricky Escape closed from last of nine to finish second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths. Queen Blossom (IRE) was third across the finish line, another 5 1/4 lengths back. Daring Duchess held on for fourth, followed by Sweet Tapper, Place des Vosges, La Piba, Quiet Business and Gotachancetodance. Paige and Sister Blues were scratched.
The winner, bred by the Ramseys in Kentucky, is a daughter of the venerable Kitten's Joy, whose progeny have enjoyed great success at Kentucky Downs. Kitten's Roar, a 5-year-old mare, is out of Bambolina, by War Chant.
Last seen finishing a close fifth in the Grade I Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park, Kitten's Roar has now won six races from 17 starts, with six seconds and two thirds. She increased her earnings to $635,058 with the $208,320 winner's share of the $350,000 purse.
It was the third stakes victory of the 2017 meet for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Sir Dudley Digges won the Old Friends Stakes, and Oscar Nominated won the Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup. All three are trained by Mike Maker.
Photo from left to right: Farm manager Mark Partridge, jockey Katie Clawson (future granddaughter-in-law of Ken Ramsey), Jeff Ramsey (Ken and Sarah's son), farm patriarch Ken Ramsey, Nolan Ramsey (grandson of Ken, nephew of Jeff and fiance of Clawson)
Mike Maker: “The drop in company really helped her. She’s two for two here now. Looking for bigger and better things.”
Jose Ortiz, aboard Kitten's Roar: “The trip was perfect. Just what I wanted. I was a little afraid going into the first turn that she wanted to be on the lead. I didn’t really want to be on the lead. But I sat there, with Tyler (Gaffalione, on Daring Duchess) on the lead, which was perfect. I just followed him the whole way, following, following. When we passed the five-eighths, I had a ton of horse. I just kind of waited, waited, working my way out a little bit. Past the three-eighths pole, I got clear, followed the Graham Motion horse (Queen Blossom). When we got to the quarter pole, I asked her, and she gave me a great run. Definitely much the best.”
Ken Ramsey, winning owner: “I thought we had the best horse in the race. She’d been running against the best in Grade 1 races. But a track like Kentucky Downs, with all the rain, you never know. So I was see her glad to open up and coast home.
“It’s wonderful to win the leading owner’s title down here for the fifth consecutive year and have my stallion Kitten’s Joy be the leading sire, and to win with one of his offspring the inaugural Ramsey Farm Stakes, that’s a pretty special day today. We brought out the heavy artillery. We thought Daring Duchess might get a piece of it. She set the pace, did her job, and ended up running well. And the big gun fired.”
Chris DeCarlo, aboard Tricky Escape (second): “I had a perfect trip, no problems. I think she might have fared a little better if it was a little firmer. But she got over it well. I had no problem. I was clocking her; I just couldn’t get close to her.”
Master Merion Wins Franklin-Simpson
Last at the top of the stretch, Master Merion impressively burst into the lead at about the midway point to home and won the Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds under Julio Garcia.
Timed in 1:27.95 for seven furlongs on a track rated good, Master Merion hit the finish line two lengths ahead of runner-up Secretary of War. Holiday Stone was third, followed by All Right, Kitten's Cat, Benefactor, Siem Rep and favored Sonic Boom
The winner is trained by Wesley Ward, owned by Vivianne Day and Kate V. Rose, and was bred in Kentucky by Lynch Bages and Edgeridge Ltd. He's a son of Quality Road out of the Danehill mare High Maintenance (GB).
It was the third win in eight starts for Master Merion, who has recently gotten good. He last competed at Del Mar in a $75,000 allowance optional claiming race, which he won facing winners for the first time. He broke his maiden two races back.
Winning rider Julio Garcia: “I’m very lucky. I knew there was a lot of speed. I said, I’ll come from behind and see what happens. And I win.”
Winning trainer Wesley Ward: “He’s got a beautiful mind. Hopefully he’s just going to keep going and have another big year next year as a 4-year-old. There was a little question whether he’d like the soft going, but he answered that today. Julio rode him beautifully. Our plan was to get him back. He had a little difficulty at first. He kind of threw his head up, then he got him to sit back and settle. And when he got him out, he cruised on by ’em. We’re really excited, especially with new owners. We’re excited to get Justin (pro golfer Justin Thomas) and his wife involved. Hopefully they get more horses and have many more winners.”
Robby Albarado, second on Secretary at War: “I was back. I tell you, cutting back in distance with my little horse, they might have found a new dimension in coming from off the pace that way. Settled nice and finished big. Wesley Ward has a nice horse there.”
All-Sources Handle Record
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, handle records were shattered again at the 2017 Kentucky Downs live meet. Figures available at this post show it was at least the sixth straight year that the Franklin, Ky. track has eclipsed the previous year's handle.
Today's all-sources handle of $5,679,416.31 brought the five-day, 50-race total to $30,246,887.68, up 34 percent from last year's five-day, 50-race total of $22,540,761.22, which in turn overtook $16,887,188, also a record at the time, in 2015. That year, 48 races were run in four days after one day was rained out and canceled races were rescheduled on other cards.
This year's numbers are particularly amazing when compared to say, 2012, when the all-sources handle was $7,570,730 for the entire meet. That figure was eclipsed in a single day this year, and it was almost double the 2011 total, when there were four race days. In short, handle this year is about four times the amount handled five years ago.
On-track handle was $1,028,951,70 up from $929,409.10 last year, which was up an impressive 47.96 percent over 2015. Handle at the track this year would have been higher had opening day, set for Saturday, Sept. 2, not been postponed to Wednesday, Sept. 6 after heavy rain from Hurricane Harvey fell in the area, necessitating the delay.
“What’s amazing about our meet is that the biggest day we had last year — and it was an all-time record — was Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup Day,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs senior vice president and general manager. “And we handled $5.7 million. This year, for five days, we averaged $6 million. Even with the rain-out day, to go over $30 million is unbelievable. It just shows that horseplayers and casual fans alike love the Kentucky Downs product. And our enthusiastic crowds show they love the entire experience of being at the track in a fun, festive family atmosphere that combines full fields of horses, low takeout rates on wagers, top-class horses and no hassle.”
All Sources Handle 2017
Day 1: $4,633,176.29
Day 2: $5,402,254.66
Day 3: $8,487,323.27*
Day 4: $6,044,717.15**
Day 5: $5,679,416.31
2017 TOTAL: $30,246,887.68
All Sources Handle 2016
Day 1: $4,603,239.82
Day 2: $4,019,637.14
Day 3: $5,769,505.23***
Day 4: $4,487,790.40
Day 5 $3,660,588.63
2016 TOTAL: $22,540,761.22
*Most in track history
**Second most in track history
***Third most in track history
New Purse Record, Too
According to Kentucky Downs officials, offered purses in 2017 amounted to $8,625,396.40. Distributions figures were not finalized at this post. Last year, $7,885,979 was distributed, a record at the time. A breakdown of distributions and the sources of the distributions will be posted later.
Kentucky Downs has the highest average daily purses in North America.
Field Sizes in Double Digits
Field sizes were again prodigious, although not quite as populous as last year. In 50 races, 522 horses ran, for an average of 10.44 starters per race. That is most likely among the highest, if not the highest, average field size in North America.
Last year, 548 horses ran in 50 races for an average field size of 10.96, which was the largest in North America.
Jockeys: The meet title went to Julien Leparoux with six wins. He did most of the heavy lifting on day 2 of the meet when he won four races.
“It’s great,” Leparoux said, wearing a Kentucky Downs “I Love Big Purses” t-shirt. “The purses are huge, and we had a good meet. It was fun.”
The second-leading jockey at the meet was the meet winner in 2015-2016, Florent Geroux, with five wins. Jose Ortiz and Jose Lezcano each found the winner's circle four times.
Trainers: Eight is the number, and the number is eight. Mike Maker, who won eight races during each of the last two meets en route to trainer titles, three-peated with eight victories again this year. Four of those wins were stakes races. In addition to the stakes he won for the Ramseys, he trains Hogy, winner of the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint for owner Michael Hui.
“Any title you can win means a lot, but especially here,” Maker said.
Ian Wilkes, Bil Mott, Tom Proctor and Joe Sharp tied for second with three victories apiece. Sharp broke his maiden at the meet with three wins on closing day. Last year he also finished well, getting his only two wins on the meet's closing day.
Owners: Ken and Sarah Ramsey point to this meet year in and year out, and it shows. They won four races at the meet for their fifth straight owner's title.
Last year the Ramseys had six wins, and in 2015 they had four.
Where They Raced Last
Tracks where winners at the meet last raced are all over the country. Saratoga led all tracks with 16 winners, and Ellis Park was second with 11. Arlington Park had seven, and Indiana Grand had four. Two winners apiece last raced at Del Mar and Delaware Park.
One winner each last raced at Gulfstream Park, Delaware Park, Del Mar, Monmouth Park, Woodbine, Mountaineer and Haydock Park in England. Two horses won their debuts at the track, up from a single debut winner last year.
Jockey 7 Wager
The final day of the Jockey7 Wager, offered for the first time this year, had these results.
Field (105 points) 9.00, 5.20, 2.10
Jose Ortiz (62 points) 3.40, 2.40
Florent Geroux (43 points) 4.40
$2 exacta 23.00
$1 trifecta 66.20
Handle on the wager was less than hoped for, but the bet is interesting and helps generate interest in the athletic riders without whom the sport would not happen.
Part of the track’s commission goes to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Jockey7 Wager Details
Day 1: $8,350.50
Day 2: $7,907.50
Day 3: $9,978.50
Day 4: $8,857
Day 5: $12,367
“We are honored to work with the Permanently Disabled Jockeys and introduce the Jockey7,” said Kentucky Downs president and part-owner Corey Johnsen. “Our goal at Kentucky Downs is to be an innovator for the industry. I am optimistic this wager will continue to grow. Like most new endeavors in our industry, it takes time to iron out some of the operational issues. But it has to start somewhere, and we were glad to be that track.”
Other Meet Highlights
The Graham Motion-trained international traveller Miss Temple City, a triple Grade I winner who twice beat males in Keeneland’s signature turf races last year, made a claim to being the most-accomplished horse to race at Kentucky Downs. Miss Temple City, ridden by Edgar Prado, captured the newly graded $350,000, Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf to set her up for another grade I appearance at Keeneland.
The Kenny McPeek-trained Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling, half of a two-horse stable for owner-breeder Nancy Polk, got back in the winner’s circle with a dominating performance in the $200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, setting a course record for 1 5/16 miles of 2:10.97, clipping the track record of 2:11.30 set by the 5-year-old Mystical Star in 2013.
Mike Maker became the first trainer to win the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup three straight years: in 2015 and ’16 with Da Big Hoss and this year with Oscar Nominated. He now has a record 42 wins at the track.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Snapper Sinclair earned a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after going to two for two on grass with his snappy victory in the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile over promising John Tippmann.
Wesley Ward didn’t mess around trying to win a $130,000 maiden race with Ultima D, instead taking the $350,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies over favored Best Performance.
Applicator came off a five-furlong sprint 13 days earlier — which came 12 days after he lost the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger by more than 50 lengths after bolting — to capture the $400,000 Tourist Mile by a length over 2016 Old Friends winner Flatlined. It was the Tourist Mile’s first running since being renamed to honor WinStar Farm’s 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, who captured the 2015 running of the Kentucky Downs stakes when it was called the More Than Ready Mile.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lull joined Oscar Nominated (last year’s Dueling Grounds Derby winner) as repeat stakes-winners at the track. The winner of last year’s Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies, Lull replicated that performance to win the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint.
The 8-year-old Hogy — making amends for last year’s narrow defeat in the race — won his second graded stakes and first since he was four in taking the $400,000, Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint. It was Hogy’s 17th win, including seven in stakes, coming in his first start since being claimed for $80,000 by Maker and owner Michael Hui.
Other Meet Highlights from Kentucky Downs release