08/10/2004 11:00PM

Ramsey, Romans on quite a ride

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Trainer Dale Romans with Roses in May last Wednesday at Saratoga. Romans will send out Kitten's Joy as a heavy favorite in Saturday's $400,000 Secretariat Stakes.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - From Kentucky to Saratoga to Chicago and points in between, this has been an unforgettable summer for Ken Ramsey and Dale Romans.

The owner-trainer team will be at Arlington Park on Saturday in the hopes that Kitten's Joy, the heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, can perpetuate their recent streak of tremendous fortune. "I'm floating on cloud nine," said Ramsey. "I'm just hoping the bloom stays on the rose."

Ramsey and Romans, who in recent years have become dominant in their respective categories at the major race meets in Kentucky, enjoyed perhaps their finest moment in racing last Saturday when Roses in May captured the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. With Kitten's Joy, the remarkably consistent colt who will start from the rail against six other 3-year-olds in the Secretariat, the men will try to sustain the kind of momentum that most horsemen can only dream about.

"It's hard not to be excited about what's happening with my stable," said Romans.

If Kitten's Joy can post his seventh victory from eight turf starts Saturday, he would add to his trainer's highly successful traveling road show. Romans already has won the following marquee races this year: Tropical Park Derby at Calder (Kitten's Joy); Cornhusker Breeders' Cup at Prairie Meadows (Roses in May); Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs (Kitten's Joy); Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park (Angela's Love); and Whitney at Saratoga (Roses in May).

"I think that record says Dale is doing something right," said Ramsey, whose horses compete in the name of him and his wife, Sarah.

Ramsey also has compiled an enviable list of his own. "Right now I've got five hopefuls for the Breeders' Cup," said Ramsey, who long has had a sizable stable spread out with as many as 10 trainers at a time. "Roses in May for the Classic, Kitten's Joy for the Turf, Badge of Silver for the Sprint, Nothing to Lose for the Mile, and Party Airs for the Steeplechase. Obviously I've never had this strong a position before, so it's been a wonderful year for us."

A major part of what makes their torrid recent runs so meaningful to both men is their relatively humble beginnings and their many years of commitment to racing.

Ramsey, 68, bought his first racehorse in the mid-1960's at the old Miles Park in Louisville. Having made a fortune in the last 10 years in the cellular phone business, he has come a long way from those primitive days. "I claimed a horse named Red Redeemer for $1,500," recalled Ramsey. "He was blind in one eye and had a three-legged limp. It wasn't a good start."

Romans, who turns 38 Saturday, grew up around horses because his late father, Jerry, was a prominent trainer based at Churchill Downs. He said training horses "is the only thing I ever thought about doing for a living. I was 12 when I led my first horse over to the paddock at Churchill.

"One thing about my recent success is that it's not an overnight thing. Every year I've been in business, we've increased purse money from the year before. It's worked out better because it's not a flash in the pan."

For all his experience, Romans has never been to Arlington for Million Day. "I've always thought it was one of the better days in racing," said Romans. "I've been watching it every year since John Henry and The Bart," the 1981 inaugural. "I'll be there not only to run this horse, but also as a big fan of racing."

Romans, speaking from Saratoga, said he is elated with the progress that Kitten's Joy has made in the last year or so. "I had him here last summer, and he was showing me a little something," he said. "Then I put him on the turf one day, and it was like a switch went off in his head. Ever since then, he's been a monster on the grass."

Except for his narrow loss in the Jefferson Cup at Churchill in June, Kitten's Joy has been flawless winning four Grade 3 races: the Tropical Park Derby, Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the American Turf at Churchill, and the Virginia Derby.

"Usually turf racing is real competitive, and horses are always taking turns beating each other," said Romans. "This horse has accomplished an awful lot in a short period of time. He's been unbelievable."

In the July 10 Virginia Derby, Kitten's Joy drew away to a 2 3/4-length win over Artie Schiller, an East Coast standout who won the Hall of Fame Stakes Monday at Saratoga. "That race Monday sure flatters our horse," said Ramsey.

Ramsey, who planned to wait until after Badge of Silver raced Friday in a Saratoga allowance before departing on a flight for Chicago, said he and his wife have never had more fun in racing than in recent months.

"This has been something else," he said. "I don't really know what to compare it to. We're going to ride the wave as far as it'll take us."