Top-rated filly to race at Mountaineer

CHESTER, W.Va. – One would be hard-pressed to find a couple having more fun and success at the races these days than Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. In 2013 they received Eclipse Awards as the outstanding owners and breeders in North America.

Homebred turf horses constitute their specialty. And on Wednesday of this week the Ramseys will be sending their four-year-old filly, Sassy Kitten, to the post in the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.

The Firecracker is carded at the distance of one mile on the grass, and pretty much seems a perfect fit for Sassy Kitten. She’s a daughter of Kitten’s Joy, a multiple Grade 1 winner who the Ramseys also bred and campaigned. Kitten’s Joy was North America’s leading general sire in 2013 and is the leading turf sire on these shores this year.

Like father, like daughter? Well, so far to a certain degree. Sassy Kitten’s resume includes six starts, from which she has gained a trio of victories, a third-place finish and purse earnings of $108,890. The Firecracker will be Sassy Kitten’s first try in stakes company.

All three of Sassy Kitten’s triumphs have occurred on the grass. She broke her maiden (at first asking) at Kentucky Downs last September. She won in allowance company at Gulfstream Park in February of this year. And she was a 1-length winner in an allowance/optional claiming event at Churchill Downs on April 30.

Sassy Kitten’s dam, Spirit Line, wasn’t a star at the races. But neither was she a dud. Spirit Line won three of 22 starts, earned $105,644 in purses, and was claimed for a $40,000 tag for the Ramseys at Saratoga in 2008.

Go back three generations in Spirit Line’s pedigree and one finds Nureyev and Nijinsky II: the former was a champion sire in France; the latter, among other deeds, swept the United Kingdom’s Triple Crown.

And going back a generation further, one finds Riverman, whose offspring includes two winners of what arguably is Europe’s most prominent race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. All of which means that there’s bona fide royalty in Sassy Kitten’s family tree.

Mike Maker is Sassy Kitten’s trainer in 2013, Maker’s horses earned $8.36 million in purses, putting him in eighth position among North American conditioners. During Maker’s career his horses have made 120 starts at Mountaineer, and have won 33 of them, for a strike rate of 27.5%.

In 2004, Maker won the Labor Day Handicap at Mountaineer with Freeforinternet. In 2012 he won the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup with Major Marvel. And in 2013 he won the West Virginia Senate President’s Cup with Prissy. Major Marvel campaigned for the Ramseys, and Prissy is another Ramsey homebred.

The Ramseys are originally from the town of Artemus in eastern Kentucky. Ken has spent most of his adulthood in the trucking, real estate and cellular phone network fields. He claimed his first thoroughbred, Red Redeemer, for $1,500 at now-defunct Miles Park in Louisville in 1969. The horse was blind in one eye, and never won for his new owner.

Since then, the Ramseys’ ventures in the racing/breeding business have been more profitable. In 1994 they purchased Almahurst Farm near Nicholasville, Kentucky. Almahurst was the birthplace of the 1918 Kentucky Derby winner, Exterminator, and also of Greyhound, one of the greatest trotters in the history of harness racing.

They gave Almahurst a new name, Ramsey Farm, and it has become a major force within the racing industry. Victorious Ramsey homebreds in 2013 included Big Blue Kitten in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga; Real Solution in the Grade 1 Arlington Million; and Admiral Kitten in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington.

Sassy Kitten is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Firecracker. The 124-pound high weight in the field of 12, she will be ridden by Ronald Dale Allen Jr., who will be seeking his 77th career stakes score. This bunch already has credentials, and intends to add to them on Wednesday.