Hands-on Ramsey owns three strong Breeders' Cup contenders

Friday, October 29th 2004, 7:23 am
By: News On 6

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) _ Ken Ramsey likes to say he's been successful in practically everything he's taken on. That would sound like bragging coming from just about any other horse owner.

But the effusive 68-year-old Kentucky native has the results to back him up. He has three strong contenders for the Breeders' Cup, and is busy planning to win the Kentucky Derby in a few years.

Ramsey and Sarah Kathern, his wife of 46 years, own two early favorites for Saturday's races: Kitten's Joy, even-money in the $2 million Turf, and Nothing to Lose, the 7-2 choice in the $1.5 million Mile. Their other horse, Roses in May, is the third choice in the $4 million Classic.

``It's like living the American dream,'' Ramsey said this week at Lone Star Park. ``If you love doing something, you're usually good at it and spend a lot of time and you don't consider it work.''

Ramsey has been a risk-taker since quitting a career as a manager in the trucking industry. He moved his wife and four children back to his native Kentucky, borrowed $5,000 and started his own real estate company in the 1970s. He and his wife spent the next 30 years as one of the top sellers in Lexington.

``Life with Ken is lots and lots of ups and downs,'' said Sarah, who is called Kathern by family and friends. ``I'm a laid-back person, so I've adjusted. He always takes care of the basics, like food and the kids' education.''

And Ramsey credits his wife, saying, ``She picks me up when things are not going so well.''

Living near Keeneland allowed Ramsey to indulge his love of racing and handicapping. He took out his trainer's license and saddled one winner, who paid $52. Then he decided to buy his own horses.

``To me, failure is not really an option,'' he said. ``You may not succeed the first time, but if you don't succeed, you're just about average. We just keep trying.''

In the mid-'80s, Ramsey gambled again. He sold his horses, mortgaged his farm and used most of his savings to enter a lottery for cellular telephone licenses in the United States. Ramsey didn't win, but his wife did.

He bought a string of cell phone franchises in Georgia and Kentucky, cashing in on a technology that swept the world. Eventually, he sold some of the licenses for millions and bought a horse farm outside Lexington.

Having gotten back into the racing business, Ramsey found himself in the winner's circle occasionally. His wagering at the track paid off, too. He has cashed several winning tickets worth six figures over the years. One of his biggest scores was a Pick Six that paid $720,000 at Saratoga last year.

The man who likes leading his horses into the winner's circle after a race would love to be there Saturday, when about 30 family members and friends will be on hand. The Ramseys' only other Breeders' Cup starter, Catienus, finished 13th in the 1999 Classic.

``He enjoys all the attention,'' said Dale Romans, who trains Kitten's Joy and Roses in May, along with 36 other horses for the couple. ``Anyone who's that enthusiastic is a good ambassador for the sport. He's a very good example of how to have a good time in the game.''

Although Roses in May isn't favored in the Classic, he has won all five starts this year, including the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, Ramsey's favorite racetrack.

``We won't have an excuse if we run up the track,'' he said. ``We'll just smile and go back to the drawing board and try to figure out what we did wrong.''

Ramsey is already working toward a future Kentucky Derby victory. He purchased a horse at a sale recently that he thinks could win America's most famous race.

``We're at the Breeders' Cup, but they'll be running a Derby a couple years down the road and we'd like to be in there,'' he said.