05/14/2004 12:00AM

Ramseys curb their Royal aspirations


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Up until a few days ago, owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey were making plans for Royal Ascot - not merely to attend, but also to participate.

The Ramseys had intended to run Kitten's Joy, recent winner of the Crown Royal American Turf, in the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes during Royal Ascot, Britain's most prestigious meeting. In the end, after conferring with trainer Dale Romans, they opted to keep him based in America, believing it would give him a better chance of winning a Breeders' Cup race this fall.

Regardless of the country, Ken Ramsey thinks big. He has Kitten's Joy pointed for the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs June 12, followed by the Virginia Derby and Secretariat Stakes this summer.

"My life is not defined by how much money I make," he said. "I like the prestige."

More than anything, Ramsey likes to win. He and Sarah have combined to win eight consecutive owner titles at Churchill Downs, and are on pace to win another. "I've got a big ego," he said. "I eat that stuff up."

That competitive spirit nearly resulted in Ramsey taking the gamble of sending Kitten's Joy to Royal Ascot. He has longed to return after a horse of theirs, the European-based Steaming Home, ran second in a stakes race there in 2001. "I'd love to beat Coolmore, the Aga Kahn, Lord this and Lord that," he said.

Despite the attraction of the St. James's Palace Stakes, the Ramseys and Romans reasoned that simply leading Kitten's Joy out of his regular stall at Churchill Downs for the Jefferson Cup would be less demanding on the horse than a trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

While the Ramseys await the Jefferson Cup, they will have action with another graded stakes performer. One of their other top turf horses, Nothing to Lose, is a likely starter for the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont June 5.

Ten Cents a Shine and Badge of Silver, meanwhile, are likely to return to the races later this year after recovering from injuries. Badge of Silver, fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel Feb. 16, had surgery recently remove a cyst from a foot.

The Ramseys are now represented by 2-year-olds by Catienus, a Storm Cat racehorse they claimed for $50,000 in 1999 with the intention of developing him into a commercial sire. Ramsey said he bred 97 of his own mares to Catienus, giving the horse the offspring he needs to gain exposure.

Asmussen juveniles red-hot

An allowance race for 2-year-olds is unlikely to fill in May, much less draw a large field. But trainer Steve Asmussen could fill a large field with his own horses. Through Thursday, Asmussen had won 13 races with 2-year-olds - seven in Kentucky and six at Lone Star Park in Texas. Twelve horses accounted for those 13 victories.

Asmussen's most accomplished 2-year-old, the locally based Lunarpal, is being pointed for stakes later in the Churchill Downs meet after winning the Three Chimneys Juvenile May 1.

Byrne charts claimer's course

Pat Byrne is known for training stakes horses, not claimers. Cherokee Prospect, a horse he claimed in April for $25,000 for the Durham Racing Stable, does not fit the mold of the horses the typically fill his barn. Or does he?

Although he lost a starter allowance at Churchill Downs Thursday - finishing second, beaten a neck by Secret Ambition - a stakes race is in his future. He is well suited to one of the July 17 Claiming Crown stakes races at Canterbury Park, the $50,000 Express. "That's why I claimed him, for that and the starter series here," Byrne said.

The six-furlong Express is restricted to horses who have run for a claiming price of $7,500 or less. Cherokee Prospect raced once for $7,500 over the winter at Fair Grounds, winning easily. In two starts for Byrne, both in starter allowances for horses who ran for $10,000 or less, he has a win and a second.

Leading up to the Claiming Crown, Byrne plans to keep Cherokee Prospect in starter races at Churchill, where he and Secret Ambition may renew their rivalry.

* Pro Prado, 13th in the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to breeze Saturday in preparation for the Northern Dancer Stakes on the Stephen Foster undercard June 12. He came out of the Derby in good condition, trainer Bob Holthus said.

* Holthus also said that Mighty Military, scratched from the featured ninth race Thursday after rearing and getting momentarily stuck in the gate, escaped injury.

* Beginning this weekend and continuing for the remaining weekends of the Churchill Downs meet, the track will open a section of the first floor of its renovated clubhouse, which is undergoing renovation. This will provide seating near the finish line.