Riding the Highs and Lows - by Eric Mitchell

(Originally published in the August 24, 2013 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

By Eric Mitchell - @BH_EMitchell on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The peak Ken and Sarah Ramsey found themselves atop Aug. 17 towers remarkably high above the racing landscape. And the plateau where the Kentucky couple became the only North American owners on record to win three grade I stakes in one day is only part of their amazing story.

The excitement began at 5:20 p.m. EDT when homebred Big Blue Kitten (Kitten’s Joy—Spent Gold, by Unaccounted For) won the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) by a length at Saratoga Race Course. Fifteen minutes later Admiral Kitten (Kitten’s Joy—Reachinforthestars, by Grand Slam) kicked clear by 11⁄4 lengths to win the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT). Then came the big race at 5:50 p.m. CDT in which Real Solution (Kitten’s Joy—Reachfortheheavens, by Pulpit) finished a head behind The Apache in the Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT) but was placed first when the winner was disqualified for interference.

Winning just one grade I is rare enough, considering only 0.13% of the horses in an average foal crop will achieve grade I status. And, since 1991, only 273 days in North America have even offered at least three grade I races.

But it gets better. Making the Ramseys’ feat all the more ridiculous to fathom are these facts: They are the owner/breeders of all three grade I winners, and the winners were all sired by the Ramseys’ homebred Kitten’s Joy.

Engrave the Ramseys’ names and their feat in granite because it is highly unlikely ever to happen again.

Incidentally, based on the most complete records from The Jockey Club beginning in 1991, only nine owners have managed to win two grade I races in a single day: Godolphin Racing (2001 and 2010); Aaron and Marie Jones (2000); Juddmonte Farms (in 1997, 2001, and 2002); Live Oak Plantation (1992); the partners Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith (2011); Ogden Phipps (1993); J. Paul Reddam (2008); Stronach Stables (2000); and Stud Tite Loy (2007).

The racing community fell from the peak and into the valley the following day as news spread about the passing of prominent bloodstock agent Buzz Chace. The New Jersey resident had been on his way to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, waiting for a car to pick him up and take him to the airport, when he suddenly went numb on one side of his body and his speech became impaired. Soon after, Chace was diagnosed with brain cancer and about a month later left us at age 72.

He had a gifted eye for spotting an athlete at the sales and picked out a high percentage of superstars that included champions Unbridled’s Song and Artax plus a slew of graded stakes winners.

What the community will miss most, however, is Chace’s generous spirit. I was one of the many beneficiaries of his genuine willingness to be a mentor.

As a cub reporter covering the Central Florida Thoroughbred industry for the Ocala Star-Banner in the late 1980s, Chace was one who helped steer me in the right direction. I can’t remember how he and I began to talk initially, but I can see him today leaning on the wooden fence that encircled what was then the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s open air walking ring. He would point out people walking between the barns and tell me who they were.

“You see them, they’re from Kentucky and buy a lot of good horses here; you’ll want to talk with them,” he’d say. Then he’d point out several hips in my catalog as potential top sellers to keep an eye on. Throughout the next two decades I saw Chace regularly at sales in Florida, Kentucky, and New York; always willing to take a moment to talk. Chace never acted impatient; a conversation with him, never rushed. He was always open, friendly, and courteous.

Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds, experienced first-hand the reach of Chace’s generosity. Finley and Chace bought and sold horses together for 17 years. On Aug. 18, he took calls all day long from people wanting to share their stories.

“You just know when you’re dealing with the loss of a real, quality person—the reaction is so heartfelt,” Finley said. “He treated everyone with dignity and respect whether they were handlers at the sales or owners. Buzz was a quality human being, and when you’re a quality human being, you do the little things like that.”

Godspeed, Buzz. And from all of us you helped along the way, thank you. 

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