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Nolan Ramsey Following in Grandfather's Racing Footsteps

The Ramsey Family after Queen's Plate VictoryNolan Ramsey (pictured wearing #5), grandson of well-known owner/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey, was one of many connections of Sir Dudley Digges who crowded together on the Woodbine turf course for a photo after the Queen's Plate. But while the rest of the family celebrated a victory in Canada's premier classic race, the 19-year-old walked the Gio Ponti colt back to the barn, cooled him out, and wrapped his legs. That's because the young Ramsey is the assistant trainer for his grandfather's newest stable star.

Some of Nolan Ramsey's earliest memories are of national and international travel watching Ramsey Farm horses compete. He even has a winner's circle photo after a 1997 race at Keeneland that shows a young Nolan with a horse on one side and Ken, who is holding the toddler, on the other.

Ramsey started working summers at Ramsey Farm as an elementary schooler and found himself drawn into the sport even further as he grew older. It was no surprise then that he began working part-time under trainer Mike Maker when he went to the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program.

What was a surprise to most of Ramsey's family was his announcement not long after that he was quitting school.

“Pretty much everybody in my family told me I needed to go back,” he remembered. “My opinion on it was, ‘Why waste my time and money to graduate with a degree if I can go get the job that I already have?' The way I described it to my grandfather was, 'I might be dropping out of school but I'm dropping out of school to go get my PhD in horse racing.'

“He didn't really care for that too much.”

The decision did not go over well at all as Ramsey recalls and grandfather Ken has no problem admitting his skepticism. Nolan will be the only one of Ramsey's grandchildren so far not to complete college, which was all the more surprising to Ken Ramsey because of Nolan's success at the prestigious Lexington School. When Ken Ramsey pointed out to his grandson that he would be at a disadvantage when competing with fellow college grads for jobs, Nolan responded that he intended to work for himself, anyway.

After a combined four years in the Maker barn, the younger Ramsey finds himself especially fascinated by Maker's signature strategy of claiming horses and trying to figure out what makes them tick, hoping to move them up the levels. Although he realizes he's years away from hanging out his own shingle, Ramsey could see himself adopting the same technique.

“It's cool to work around someone who can take a horse, see what he's lacking, and just by working with him and training, can fix that and improve the horse,” said Ramsey. “It really shows his horsemanship.”

Although he had traveled with the stable to Woodbine several times before, the preparation for the Queen's Plate was his first time taking a string of horses by himself. It was a lot of pressure, he admitted, to be the primary set of eyes on Sir Dudley Digges and two of his stablemates. Fortunately, Ramsey first met the colt in his 2-year-old season and already knew what to look for.

“I could tell from the minute he got there he was feeling good and was just a completely different horse [from when he was younger],” said Ramsey. “I knew he had matured a lot in the three weeks between races [from the Plate Trial Stakes to the Plate].

“He's fun, he's playful. He's actually one of my barn favorites and was even before he broke his maiden. He's a nice horse to be around and makes me look good.”

That success should not only endear him to Maker but could help Ramsey establish his own reputation, independent of the Ramsey Farm banner. Both Nolan and Ken agree that Nolan doesn't want any favors because of his last name.

“People hear my last name and they automatically assume—I don't know what they assume, but they have assumptions and not all of them are good,” said Ramsey. “I started working for Mike as a hotwalker. I've always had the attitude that I have something to prove to everybody. I don't want any breaks. I don't want anything handed to me. My grandfather earned it, it wasn't handed to him. Why should it be handed to me?”

Last weekend's big win can't hurt his assertion that the racetrack is proving a good teacher to the young horseman.

“He's in horse heaven,” said Ken Ramsey. “He's hands-on. He wants to be a horse trainer, and we think he's going to be a good one.”

- by Natalie Voss/www.paulickreport.com

 

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