01/17/2005 1:00AM

Ramsey fined, suspended

Kenneth Ramsey

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority issued a $25,000 fine and seven-day suspension for owner Ken Ramsey on Monday, finding that Ramsey had violated Kentucky's ethics code when he offered another owner money if she scratched her horse out of a race.

The fine was tied for the largest the authority or its predecessor, the Kentucky Racing Commission, had ever approved, according to the authority's chairman, William Street. Ramsey was scheduled to begin serving his seven-day suspension on Tuesday. The suspension, which will prohibit Ramsey from entering a horse in any race in the United States, will run through Jan. 24.

The penalty and suspension were negotiated with Ramsey's attorney, Burr Travis, authority officials said. Ramsey, who is one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award for owner of the year, has been out of the country on a Caribbean cruise since the beginning of the year, and is not scheduled to return until shortly before the Jan. 24 Eclipse Award ceremonies.

"I thought given the speed of the settlement, given the facts as we have them, the penalty was appropriate," said Street.

Ramsey allegedly offered owner-trainer Barbara Connor an unspecified amount of money to scratch her horse, Mamaroni, out of the first race at Turfway Park on Dec. 31. Ramsey had hoped to enter the race off the also-eligible list with Ken's Cat, a 2-year-old first-time starter whose sire, Catienus, Ramsey owns.

At the time of the race, Catienus was leading the U.S. first-year sire list with 19 winners. Ramsey had allegedly hoped to pad the sire's resume in order to guarantee the horse would end the year at the top of the list. Ken's Cat would have been one of the favorites in the race.

Connor did not scratch her horse and instead notified the stewards at Turfway Park about the offer, Street said. The stewards then ordered that Ken's Cat would be ineligible to draw into the race.

Of the 11 commissioners who were present on Monday, all but one - the authority's vice chairwoman, Connie Whitfield - voted to approve the settlement. Whitfield said after the meeting that she supported a tougher penalty because of a recent federal indictment of 17 people in connection with tampering with a horse race in New York and running an illegal gambling operation based on the East Coast.

"I think the indictments present a background for the authority to be tougher on certain activities," Whitfield said. "While the case can be made that the settlement was tough, along with the suspension, I'm a former litigator, so I tend to go for the jugular."