Ken Ramsey set the record for most wins at a Saratoga meet when Granny Mc's Kitten won the P.G. Johnson Wednesday. After the stakes, Ramsey signed autographs, posed for photos, handed out buttons and shook hands like a politician on Election Day.
Ramsey wins owner's titles like a kid collects scrapes. He breeds, claims and buys aggressively. The racetrack wins are short term, but the commitment to his own stallion, Kitten's Joy has changed the game. The self-made man has self-made the stallion.
Love him or hate him, Ramsey's colorful, passionate, opinionated and unabashedly successful.
As a writer, he's easy. Just push record and let him go.
"I'm personally involved this time, picking out the races myself, I've got my condition book, I'm 77 years old, I been around a long time, I know the game, I know how it works, what it takes to win it. I can spot one to win a race and spot one to claim.
"I'm trying to make the stallion. The bloodlines, this guy's got a set of genes that are unbelievable. Sadler's Wells puts out these good stallions, he's got the same bloodlines. We have figured out what he matches up with. I'll claim any mare that has that, if she's correct. What we're looking for is has beens, instead of never wases, if you got an eye knocked out, your kid's not going to be born with one eye.
"I set up at night, trying to figure out who to mate him to and who not to. I'm passing it on down to my son and grandson. I won't be around forever so I want it to continue on, it won't be as tough for them as it was for me.
"I don't want to be boasting, but I've got to this level in everything I've ever attempted. It started off, my junior year in high school, I was a one half point ahead for being valedictorian, I was the youngest kid in the class, only 16. My dad said, 'Son, you'll get a scholarship at Union College for one year, I'll give you 50 dollars if you beat the other guy out.' I buckled down and made straight A's. The other guy, Jewell Edward Payne he buckled down too and made straight A's too. At the end of the deal, I was still one half point ahead so I got to be valedictorian.
"I went in the Navy as seaman recruit, and ended up being a lieutenant junior grade. I got in the trucking business, working for somebody else, the first year I was regional manager of the year in Hartford, Connecticut. I got in the real estate business, after 11 months, I sold more properties than anybody in the county, and stayed on top for 17 consecutive months. I got burned out on that and got in the cellular telephone business. I parlayed that into the horse business.
"I didn't have any money. At Union College, I bussed tables for 50 cents an hour. I went to UK on the GI bill, $110 a month. I started out with nothing. I put myself in position to get lucky, if you keep doing it over and over and over, sooner or later it hits, I don't worry about the ones that lose, you learn a lot from failure.
"I like to be the enthusiastic, it's the Lombardi deal, where he told his staff, if you're not fired up enthusiastically, you'll be fired enthusiastically. It's contagious from the top down, that's me.
"I've been competitive all my life. I like to win, I like to succeed, I like to be number one, I like to be front and center, I've got a big ego, us entrepreneurs, it's not the money, it's not. I ended up selling that First Cellular telephone thing for $39 million, my wife thought we were going to sit under a palm tree and do nothing, but that inspired me, it's not the money, it's the challenge, it's the...I don't know what it is, I got a big kick out of that filly today, my stallion, my mare, it has our brand all over it, the whole deal. It vindicates the whole program
"This is the last year I'm going to go for all these owners' titles. I'm going to try to win Kentucky Downs, Keeneland and Churchill because I've got the horses. Then I'm going to try to go international. I've got a division right now in Italy, France and Ireland. I'm going to go to England and Australia. I've been invited to Dubai...try to win the Arc, the Melbourne Cup, some of those big races. I've got brochures for Japan and Bill Nader sent me a letter for Hong Kong. We might not get it, but we'll try. We're going to go international..."
Doubt him if you want.
- Watch Kitten's Joy win the Virginia Derby.