One thing you can always count on Ken Ramsey for is an honest opinion. If you have ever had a conversation with the prominent Kentucky-based owner, there is a good chance you left with an earful of his thoughts, a smile on your face, and if you’re a writer, some pretty good material.
As usual, the affable Ramsey had plenty to say about the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 11, just five days before Pleasant Prince shoots for an upset in the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico. Typically, when discussing one of his horses, Ramsey is all optimism, often touting them even under the longest of odds while also backing them heavily at the windows. Surprisingly, Ramsey was more realistic about Pleasant Prince’s chances in what is shaping up to be a very competitive Preakness.
“We’re probably not going to win the race. If I was betting, I wouldn’t be going in with both hands,” he said. “I try to be realistic. He’s probably not going to be the first, second, third, or fourth choice. He’s running against some very good horses, many of them more accomplished than us.”
The Wesley Ward trainee enters the Preakness off a pair of uninspiring performances, first running seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, then a distant third in the one-mile The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Both races were attempts to garner enough graded earnings to claim a spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 1, a plan that became necessary after missing by a nose in the Florida Derby (gr. I) back in March.
Ramsey admits he was taking a chance by racing the colt three times in five weeks and says if he had it to do over again he would have done things differently.
“I don’t like to make excuses, but I will not come to Keeneland (to race on Polytrack) if I’m ever in a similar situation. I will run on dirt. I initially wanted to go to Arkansas (for the Arkansas Derby, gr. I), but Wesley wanted the Blue Grass, so we compromised. I said we can go to the Blue Grass if he trains well over it, and he did.
“But Wesley said the track changed from the morning to the afternoon (on the day of the Blue Grass). In the morning it was cold and congealed. After it got hotter in the afternoon, it started becoming sticky and gooey. Some handled it and some didn’t. Either our horse didn’t or he wasn’t as good as we thought he was.”
Since his Derby Trial effort, Pleasant Prince has returned to Keeneland to train. Ward gave the son of Indy King one work over the Polytrack, that coming May 9 when he went a solid :59-flat for five furlongs. A winner of just one of nine starts with earnings of $224,398, he will ship to Baltimore Wednesday, May 12.
Ramsey has had one previous Preakness starter, that coming in 2003 when Ten Cents a Shine finished last after being eased. It was later found that he had bowed a tendon during the race.
“I might not be betting heavily (on the race), but I would bet on one thing: We will have a better trip than we did that year,” Ramsey laughed.
“As I said, I’m realistic, but I wouldn’t be sending (Pleasant Prince) if I didn’t think he had a chance to improve and finish in the top three. Julien Leparoux said he ran well in the Derby Trial, but we had to win the race to get in (to the Derby), so he didn’t beat him to death (after they were out on contention). There was still a lot left in the tank. I think the horse has a lot better chance at longer distances and Leparoux gives us an edge. The trainer is high on him too.
“He has to improve, but my feeling is, if you keep putting yourself into position to get lucky, strange things can happen.”
Ramsey, who won the Gallorette Handicap (gr. III) on the Preakness undercard with Precious Kitten in 2007, also said his other top 3-year-old Dean's Kitten, who ran 14th in the Kentucky Derby, is being pointed toward a summer campaign on the grass with an eye toward the June 19 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT) at Colonial Downs.