01/21/2005 12:00AM

Ramsey made offer to wrong trainer


Owner-trainer Barbara Conner raises and trains many of her racehorses at her farm in Tennessee and ships them to Kentucky to race. That much people know about her.

What many don't realize is her background. Conner, 63, was a nun for 17 years before leaving the Catholic Church and pursuing a career in health care and horse racing.

Although nearly 30 years removed from her days as a nun, she continues to hold strong beliefs in right and wrong. It was Conner who blew the whistle on owner Ken Ramsey, who on Monday was issued a $25,000 fine and a seven-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. The authority determined that Ramsey had violated Kentucky's code of ethics by offering Conner money to scratch her horse from a race at Turfway Park on Dec. 31.

According to Conner, Ramsey called her directly and offered an undisclosed 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 $7,500 maiden claiming race off the also-eligible list with his horse Ken's Cat, whose sire, Catienus, he also owns.

At the time of the race, Catienus was leading the U.S. first-year sire list with 19 winners. A win by Ken's Cat would have padded Catienus's sire statistics.

Conner said she rejected the offer and told Ramsey of her disapproval. She then contacted the stewards at Turfway Park, and they ordered that Ken's Cat would be ineligible to draw into the race.

Mamaroni ran in the race, starting at odds of more than 60-1. He finished fifth, earning $75.

Although her horse was an outsider in the race at Turfway, Conner said she could never have accepted Ramsey's offer.

"I didn't have to make a decision," she said. "It was wrong."

She said she reported his action to the stewards because she believes participants in horse racing must do their part to restore respect and integrity.

"When something like this happens," she said, "the owner is hurt. The trainer is hurt. The rider is hurt. But the biggest loser is the industry."

Jim Gallagher, executive director of the KHRA, commended Conner for notifying the stewards.

"We're very appreciative," he said.

Ramsey, who is an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding owner along with his wife, Sarah, was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Tempus Fugit makes class drop

Despite not having the purse necessary to qualify for black type, Sunday's $35,000 Winning Colors Handicap at Turfway drew a field of 10, led by Tempus Fugit, a speedy mare from the Bernie Flint stable.

Unplaced in rich stakes in her last two starts, she should relish a drop in class. Two starts ago, Tempus Fugit contested the pace in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct before fading to fifth. Then in her last start at Mountaineer Park in late December, she raced similarly, chasing fast fractions and tiring to fifth in the New Year's Eve Handicap.

Other contenders include Dick's Chick, who ran third behind Two Mile Hill in the My Charmer at Turfway in her last start; Plumlake Lady, a fast allowance winner Dec. 30; and New York invader U K Trick, who was stakes placed last winter at Aqueduct.

Leading rider Dean Sarvis has the mount on Tempus Fugit.

Races get tougher to fill

Sunday's card, like many at Turfway since the start of the year, reflects a depleted horse population. With Beulah Park and Mountaineer reopening earlier this month after short breaks, and with Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park under way, the pool of available horses has been thinned.

Heading into Friday night's card, fields have averaged 8.8 starters per race, down from 9.9 for the holiday meet that ended Dec. 31.

The shortage of horses is most evident in upper-level races. Heading into Friday, only 15 of Turfway's 139 races in 2005 were allowances or stakes.