05/11/2007 12:00AM

Storm Boot leaves 45 stakes winners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Storm Boot, sire of such graded winners as millionaire Bourbon Belle and Grade 1-placed Hurricane Bertie, was euthanized Thursday at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute here at age 18. A Crestwood Farm stallion, Storm Boot had developed laminitis as a complication of chronic degenerative tendonitis.

A son of Storm Cat, Storm Boot had covered about 40 mares from a 60-mare book, according to Robert Keck, Crestwood's bloodstock and pedigree consultant.

Storm Boot retired to Crestwood in late 1993 and was one of the Lexington nursery's first stallions, following Discover. He stood this year for $12,500.

"As one of our very first stallions, he turned into a good, consistent sire," said Crestwood's owner, Pope McLean. "He was like a member of the family. He will be missed."

Stakes-placed Storm Boot was one of Storm Cat's first sons to retire to stud, and he enjoyed a productive career with progeny including the graded winners like Night Patrol, American Spirit, and Smooth Jazz. At his death, he had sired 45 stakes winners and had progeny earnings of $26,866,769.

McLean owned Storm Boot in partnership with Ardboe Stable, which campaigned him.

Storm Boot was out of the Mr. Prospector mare Aliata.

Bragging rights prompt free spending

Lexington-area farms are gearing up for the May 20 High Hope Steeplechase meet at the Kentucky Horse Park, where their pride is on the line in the Sportsman's Challenge. The amateur flat race features horses sponsored by local farms and often ridden by farm employees.

Since its inception in 1993, the 1 1/2-mile contest has become one of the most popular events in Kentucky racing, and securing suitable horses for the race is a competition in itself. The race is limited to runners who are age 4 or older, have raced before but not won $20,000 in total prize money this year, and have not finished in the top three in a stakes or listed race since May 20, 2005. Finding a horse who can fit the bill - and carry the assigned weight of 165 pounds - is a project that often inspires farms to go to some extraordinary lengths.

This year's 12-horse field includes one such example in Dubai Sunday, a 6-year-old Japanese-bred Sunday Silence gelding who will be flying in from England for the race. Once campaigned by Darley Stud, Dubai Sunday is now owned by Eventmaker Racehorses and Phil McEntee, whose twin brother, Mark, is farm manager at Miacomet Farm near Lexington. Phil McEntee, who also trains Dubai Sunday and will ride him in the Sportsman's Challenge under Miacomet Farm's sponsorship, bought the gelding privately and has hopes of turning him into a Stateside steeplechaser.

Mark McEntee estimated that the horse's shipment from England to cost about $10,000 - "more than the horse is worth in England," he said.

"He'll be worth more in America, though, if he can go on and be a steeplechaser," McEntee said.

Sarah Ramsey making progress

Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Ramsey Farm has made a habit of winning the Sportsman's Challenge. Ramsey Farm has won two of the last three runnings of the race, including the 2006 edition with celebrity guest Chris McCarron piloting King David's Son.

This year, the Ramseys expect to have King David's Son back in the Sportsman's Challenge again, and they also plan to have Slip Away and Master William competing in other races on the card. But for Ken Ramsey, the real victory will come if his wife, Sarah, can attend the races.

Sarah Ramsey suffered what her husband described as "a devastating stroke" in Florida on Feb. 21. Paralyzed on the right side of her body, she also had lost her ability to speak. But Ken Ramsey, who has taken a highly active role in his wife's therapy at the Cardinal Hill rehabilitation hospital in Lexington, says she is making remarkable progress. He reports that she has regained some feeling in her right arm and last week spoke her first words since the stroke.

"She's definitely recovering," Ken Ramsey, 70, said. "Her spirit is good, and she's putting in the hard work."

That work consists of daily physical therapy as well as occupational therapy and speech therapy, plus treatments including acupuncture and hyperbaric oxygen therapy that Ramsey has used on the couple's racehorses.

"The doctor told me I should quit treating my wife like a horse," Ramsey joked. "But it seems to be working."

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Ramsey took a trip back to their farm near Nicholasville, Ky., for the first time since the stroke. She sat with her husband behind their house, where they could look out over a pasture with 40 mares and foals as they galloped back and forth in the afternoon.

"She actually broke down and cried to see all those horses again," Ramsey said. "I expect to have her back in the winner's circle."

Friends wishing to send cards may reach Sarah K. Ramsey at Cardinal Hill, Room 103, 2050 Versailles Rd., Lexington, Ky., 40504.