Wesley Ward sues champion owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey for nearly $1m in training fees

Horse Racing Ken and Sarah Ramsey owners
Ken and Sarah Ramsey: multiple Eclipse Awards winners as champion owners and breeders. Photo: Paulick Report/Horsephotos.com

By Natalie Voss/Paulick Report

USA: Royal Ascot regular Wesley Ward is one of two high-profile trainers revealed to have filed near-$1 million lawsuits against former champion owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

The multiple Eclipse Award winners were hit with the lawsuit from Ward while in the process of settling a separate suit filed last week by the prolific Mike Maker.

Ward filed suit against the Ramseys in Jessamine County Circuit Court on March 19, while Maker filed suit in Fayette Circuit Court a week earlier. Each case centres around just under $1m in delinquent training bills.

Ward alleges that the Ramseys owe $974,790.40 in unpaid training bills, trainer’s portion of winning purses, and interest. Invoices attached to Ward’s suit show balances stretching back to June 2020.

Although Ward concedes Ramsey has made payments in the months since – with one $50,000 payment days before the lawsuit was filed – the balance has remained in the high six figures throughout that period as training bills continue to mount.

Maker’s suit alleges the Ramseys have been delinquent on training bills in his case for “almost four years” and their current balance owed to him is $905,357.29 – down from the $1.25m they owed last summer. 

Maker’s suit stated the couple promised to pay him in full by the end of 2020, but that did not happen. According to the complaint, Maker said $543,597.26 is more than 90 days past due.

When reached by phone last week, Ramsey said he was surprised to learn Maker had filed suit against him and was eager to work out a deal to pay Maker in full in exchange for the suit being withdrawn.

“I thought we had things worked out and I thought I had a schedule to get things worked out on,” said Ramsey, citing his long-standing relationship with the trainer. “I’m shocked. I didn’t think he’d file a lawsuit because my assets well exceed what I owe him, by far.

“It’s not that I’m not paying, it’s just that I guess I’m not paying fast enough. I have never beaten anybody out of a dime.”

Ward and Maker both filed UCC-1 financing statements with the Kentucky Secretary of State to create liens against the horses which had racked up the unpaid invoices. Maker placed liens on 27 horses, while Ward placed liens on a separate group of 44 horses.

Both trainers have had some of those horses leave their possession through retirement or claiming, with Maker down to just three still in his barn: Artie’s Rose, Risk Manager, and Telephone Talker. 

Ward’s suit seeks a court order to sell the horses named in his lien, with proceeds being applied to the unpaid balance, as well as any ongoing expenses from his day rate of $110.

The Ramseys have won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner four times (2004, 2011, 2013, and 2014) and the award for Outstanding Breeder twice (2013 and 2014). 

Since 2000, Equibase reports the couple has won 2,217 races from 9,790 starts for total earnings of more than $97m. Their annual earnings have fallen from their peak in 2013 of over $12m, and last year the stable brought in $2.3 million from 274 starts. Their Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky, was the longtime base for the operation’s homebred stallion Kitten’s Joy, who relocated to Hill ‘n’ Dale in 2018.

Maker trained a number of the Ramseys’ graded stakes winners, including Vicar’s In Trouble, International Star, Oscar Nominated, Admiral Kitten, Al’s Gal, Kitten’s Dumplings, Furthest Land, and Shining Copper.

Ward has trained graded stakes winners Artie’s Princess, Emotional Kitten, Holiday For Kitten, and Pleasant Prince for the Ramseys. Ward was also tasked with accomplishing Ramsey’s goal of getting a winner at Royal Ascot, which Ramsey has yet to attain.

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