Updated on 09/17/2011 9:57AM

He's got the fever

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Badge of Silver gave owner Ken Ramsey his biggest thrill in racing by winning the Risen Star Stakes on Sunday at Fair Grounds.

Considering his Kentucky roots, his passion for horse racing - from owning to breeding to betting - and his undying love for Churchill Downs, where he has been the leading owner the past six meetings, Ken Ramsey may get a bigger kick out of winning the Kentucky Derby than anyone else in the world.

Ramsey has put himself in position to accomplish that long-sought goal. He owns the nation's hottest 3-year-old prospect, Badge of Silver, who remained unbeaten with his victory in Sunday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. And he's got a pretty good supporting cast, too, with Ten Cents a Shine, who was favored in last Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes, and Nothing to Lose, a stakes winner on turf who may get another chance to try the dirt later this spring.

It is Badge of Silver, though, who has Ramsey's attention at the moment. In an interview Wednesday morning from his winter home in south Florida, Ramsey called Badge of Silver's victory "the biggest thrill I've had in racing.

"I was thinking of the potential of what might be in the future," Ramsey said in his usual rapid-fire style of speech. "It made me think that this could be the one I've dreamed about my whole life."

It is a life that's a combination of Norman Rockwell and the American Dream. Ramsey comes from a middle-class family in tiny Artemus, Ky. He saw Churchill Downs for the first time when he was 6, when he begged his Aunt Ruby to take him by the track on a Christmas shopping trip to the big city of Louisville.

Ramsey saw the Derby for the first time in 1953 - "I bet $2 on Native Dancer" - and, except for a kidney stone that kept him hospitalized in 1992, he has seen every Derby since 1966.

"I don't know why, but I've always been fascinated with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby," Ramsey said. "I don't come from a racing family. My uncle had two mules who plowed his garden; that's the closest thing we had to a horse. But when I was in college, I wrote an English term paper on the Kentucky Derby. And in my speech class, I made a speech on the Kentucky Derby. I've been obsessed with it my whole life."

Ramsey was earning a comfortable living in real estate in central Kentucky from the 1960's through the 1980's, but he obtained the wherewithal to play racing at its highest level in the past decade, after striking it rich in the cell phone business. His company, Ramcell - for Ramsey Cellular - has businesses in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon. Ramsey has eight radio stations in Arkansas, Texas, and Wisconsin. He also was a minority shareholder in 52 other cellular companies.

"I had one percent of a company in Modesto, California," he said. "I sold my share for $1.2 million."

Do the math, and you can quickly see why Ramsey now has the means to own about 200 horses, including racing and breeding stock, and a 1,390-acre farm in Nicholasville, Ky. He has flat horses and steeplechase runners in both this country and Europe, and employs a wide array of trainers, including Michael Dickinson, D. Wayne Lukas, Ken McPeek, Dale Romans, Tom Voss, Dermot Weld, and Ronny Werner, who trains Badge of Silver.

Ramsey hooked up with Werner two years ago, after Werner impressed Ramsey by sending out an array of 2-year-old winners at Keeneland's spring meet. That fall, Werner picked out Badge of Silver at the Keeneland September yearling sale, and Ramsey bought the colt for $85,000.

Badge of Silver won his debut at Keeneland in April 2002, but did not race again until January. He needed surgery at Rood and Riddle equine hospital in Lexington, Ky., for a hairline fracture to the cannon bone in his right front leg; Badge of Silver needed two screws to fuse the fracture.

After having time off at Ramsey's farm under the supervision of farm manager Mark Partridge, Badge of Silver went back to Rood and Riddle and had the screws removed. To aid and speed his recovery, Badge of Silver made use of a swimming program at Kesmarc training facility in Lexington, where he was supervised by Hub Johnson. He then went back to Werner in October.

Now, two starts later, Badge of Silver is 3 for 3, and has won his races by a combined 26 lengths. It's enough to make a 67-year-old man - "a very young 67," Ramsey emphasizes - dream of what might be.

"Has there ever been an owner who rode his horse into the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby?" he said, laughing. "I might ask for a leg up."

In other Derby developments:

- Trainer Todd Pletcher said his top prospects - Aristocat, Indy Dancer, and Lion Tamer - all will run in stakes in their next starts. "Lion Tamer will definitely go two turns next time," Pletcher said. "He'll run in either the Florida Derby or the Spiral-Gallery Furniture.com-Jim Beam-Lane's End race at Turfway, whatever they're calling it this year." This year, it's simply known as the Lane's End Stakes, and it's March 22, exactly one week after the March 15 Florida Derby.

Aristocat is being considered for the Florida Derby, the March 16 Tampa Bay Derby, and the Lane's End. "It's time to step up a notch and see where he fits," Pletcher said.

Indy Dancer, who finished seventh as the favorite in the Risen Star, came out of the race well and cooled out quickly. "It was like he never ran," Pletcher said. "I've got to throw it out and try again. He's not going back to Louisiana. I'm considering the same races for him as for Aristocat and Lion Tamer. I'm flirting with putting blinkers on him for his next race."

- Empire Maker, who will add blinkers for the Florida Derby, worked in them for the first time on Wednesday morning at Hollywood Park, covering five furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Bobby Frankel.

- Another Frankel trainee, Peace Rules, is going to skip the March 1 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita and go out of town, because the conditions of the San Rafael make Peace Rules carry the most weight, Frankel said Wednesday from Hollywood Park.

- Kafwain, the early Derby favorite, is headed to the Louisiana Derby.

- Senor Swinger is not going to run in the Louisiana Derby, which was one of two races being considered by trainer Mickey Goldfine. Instead, he will run in either the Florida Derby or the Tampa Bay Derby. "The Tampa Bay Derby is a backup," Goldfine said Wednesday from Gulfstream Park.

- Christophe Clement, the trainer of Region of Merit, is considering five races for his colt's next start - the Louisiana Derby, Florida Derby, Tampa Bay Derby, the March 16 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, and Lane's End Stakes.