There is something that prominent horse owner Ken Ramsey reveres more than setting records, winning owner titles or presenting trophies to himself.
So when it came between shipping multiple stakes-winner Daring Duchess to Kentucky Downs for Thursday’s $400,000 Ramsey Farm Stakes that Ramsey sponsors or trying to win another race in Canada where his grandson Nolan oversees trainer Mike Maker’s Woodbine division, ol’ granddad opted to keep the 6-year-old mare where she was.
Hence, Daring Duchess, who would have been one of the favorites, has been scratched from the 1 5/16-mile stakes in which she finished fourth last year after setting the pace for victorious stablemate Kitten’s Roar. That paved the way for Ramsey to receive the Ramsey Farm trophy from son Jeff.
Ramsey, who races horses in partnership with wife Sarah, still could win the co-featured $300,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds running 6 1/2 furlongs with Battle Station, the 4-1 second choice behind 7-2 Angaston on closing day of Kentucky Downs' five-date meet.
Ramsey, the track’s all-time win leader at 44 heading into Wednesday’s card, is gunning for a seventh straight Kentucky Downs owner crown and ninth overall.
“I guess blood is thicker than titles,” Ramsey said, acknowledging that he wouldn’t have kept Daring Duchess in Canada “if my grandson wasn’t up there and trying to make a name for himself — and he’s winning about 27 percent of his starts, with 14 wins…. There’s two horses I left up there because of the blood, instead of the ego of winning another title. Hopefully we can pull it off and I can stay in good graces with my grandson, helping him out, and also winning the owner’s title.”
With Wednesday and Thursday’s cards remaining, Ramsey is in a three-way tie for the owners’ lead with DARRS Inc. and Woodford Racing at two wins apiece. (Maker is in great shape to win his fourth straight trainer’s title, having a 7-3 lead over Wesley Ward, while the jockey standings are tight with defending titlist Julien Leparoux up 6-5 over Tyler Gaffalione.)
“There’s a race up there that Nolan thinks fits Daring Duchess better, so she’s still in Canada,” Ramsey said by phone from the Keeneland sales. “I wish I had another horse in there. So Jeff can’t present the trophy to me or vice versa, but I’ll be down there to present a trophy to whomever and hopefully to receive the trophy for leading owner.”
The front-running Battle Station brings a 4-2-1 record out of nine starts into the Franklin-Simpson. The gelding is coming off an entry-level allowance race at Saratoga, being eligible for it in spite of two stakes wins last year because those races were restricted to New York-breds.
John Velazquez will be in to ride for the first time at Kentucky Downs.
“He’s trained by Wesley Ward, so you know he’s going to have a lot of speed,” Ramsey said of Battle Station. “The fact that John Velazquez is coming down to ride him says a whole lot. They’re going to have to catch him, that’s the bottom line. Wesley likes the horse and the horse is coming from Saratoga. If you can win at Saratoga, you can win about any place. So we definitely have a contender there. That might be the one that sews up the leading owner for me for the seventh consecutive time.
Mom’s On Strike: Nightmare turns into fairytale
The 7-2 favorite for the Ramsey Farm is the 5-year-old mare Mom’s On Strike, winner of Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes at 1 1/2 miles and subsequently a good fourth in Belmont’s Grade 2 New York after being very far back and second in Saratoga’s off-the-turf $200,000 Waya.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on the turf,” said trainer Joe Sharp. “She shows up every single time. She hooked a filly in the Waya that was loose on the lead and just outran us on the dirt. Timing-wise, this should be a good set-up as her last start before the Breeders’ Cup if things go as planned.”
The 1 3/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare is Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, a course over which Mom’s On Strike had a win and a second last fall before bursting on the stakes scene in New Orleans.
“I think the farther the better for her,” Sharp said. “A mile and five-sixteenths at Kentucky Downs is like a mile and a half anywhere else, with that uphill stretch. It really seems to add distance without any added distance. I really think that long stretch is going to work in her favor. She can kind of have a good gallop until turning for home, and that’s where she does all her running.”
Mom’s On Strike, as a Florida-bred, runs for the $200,000 base purse, with the other $200,000 available for Kentucky-breds through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Funds.
“We’re running for half. But we’re close, it’s in our backyard and the distance is right,” Sharp said. “It’s worth it. And $200,000 is nothing to sneeze at. If you can get past mentally running for half, the rest of it is OK. That’s all it is. It’s still a lot of money, and she’s going into it in great form.”
Mom’s On Strike is owned by Carl Moore and Brad Grady, and how they got her is a strange story. Mom’s On Strike’s original owners sent her to Sharp as a 2-year-old without advance notice.
“The people who owned her went bankrupt,” Sharp said. “I had her for more than nine months at Belmont, and they never paid a bill. Didn’t even know the people who sent her to me. She just showed up on a Sallee van one morning at the Fair Grounds. I was able to track her back to the farm. Long and short of it, they went bankrupt, Chapter 11, like 70 creditors owed.”
The massive Mom’s On Strike showed enough as a 3-year-old, including finishing second in a stakes at Belmont in her turf debut, to keep Sharp going with her. Then the bankruptcy hit. She went six months without training — and more than 13 months without Sharp being paid — until the mess could be sorted out.
“The New York stewards were really great and stood behind me,” he said. “She just hand-walked all winter, because I figured if I trained her and they saw works, they’d never pay me.
“We got her sold basically for a little more than what they owed me to Carl Moor and Brad Grady. It worked out great. And honestly, with a filly her (large) size, it was probably a blessing in disguise to get some time off. I just wish it could have been turned out eating grass instead of on the backside at Belmont. But it all worked out. Brad and Carl have been supporters of us from Day One, so it’s fun. It really ended up being a neat deal that we got to keep her, and she’s been pretty special to us.”
Since being sold, Mom’s On Strike has five wins, four seconds and two fourths, with three stakes victories, in 12 starts.
“I really can’t believe I came up on the up side of it,” Sharp said. “I’m telling you, I’ve never seen anything like it.”