Written by: Jennifer Morrison

After Sir Dudley Digges pulled off a 15-1 upset in the 157th Queen’s Plate, famed thoroughbred owner and breeder Ken Ramsey regaled the crowd with a tale of his own royal lineage.

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Dave Landry Photo

After Sir Dudley Digges pulled off a 15-1 upset in the 157th Queen’s Plate, famed thoroughbred owner and breeder Ken Ramsey regaled the crowd with a tale of his own royal lineage.

Ken Ramsey dusted himself off while he was helped to his feet after tumbling to the ground leading his colt Sir Dudley Digges into the Queen’s Plate winner’s circle.

One of the world’s most prolific thoroughbred owners and breeders was tripped up by his feisty charge following an exciting victory in the 157th Queen’s Plate. Anyone who knows the boisterous and personable octogenarian understood, however, that the man is as tough as his world-class racehorses.

Ramsey ticked another one of his dream races off his wish list when Sir Dudley Digges reeled in favoured Amis Gizmo in the final strides of the 1 1/4-mile Plate on July 3 in front of a record Woodbine crowd that numbered just over 37,000.

Ridden by American-based jockey Julien Leparoux, Sir Dudley Digges had finished third in the Plate Trial three weeks early to Amis Gizmo, the impressive colt of owner and breeder Ivan Dalos. All On Red, a lightly-raced 3-year-old, also American-based but trained by Woodbine’s Sid Attard, finished a gallant third over West Point Thoroughbreds’ Scholar Athlete, yet another Canadian-bred who had been racing in the U.S.

Shakhimat, the early Plate favourite after a stellar 2-year-old campaign, led to the final two furlongs and faded to fifth.

Sir Dudley Digges was a rare 2-year-in training purchase by Ramsey who, along with wife Sarah, has bred dozens of champions and graded stakes winners all over the world, many by his world-class stallion Kitten’s Joy. In search of a Canadian-bred to run in the Plate, however, Ramsey and his team, including Kentucky bloodstock agent Patrice Miller, picked up the jet-black colt at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s June Two-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale for $130,000.

The son of three-time American champion Gio Ponti from the Kris S. mare My Pal Lana had originally been sold by his breeders, Bernard and Karen McCormack of Janetville, ON, for $72,000 as a weanling at the 2013 Keeneland November sale. Sir Dudley Digges was the first Plate winner bred by the McCormacks, who operate Cara Bloodstock.

Sir Dudley Digges made up for some bad luck by Ramsey’s most recent Plate starter, We Miss Artie, now at stud in Ontario at Colebrook Farms, who was a troubled fourth in 2014.

“This race has been on my bucket list, one of three races I wanted to win,” said Ramsey. “Number one is winning the Kentucky Derby and number two is winning a stake at Royal Ascot. I am all about British history and Her Majesty, the Queen, the pomp and pageantry.”

Ramsey, decked out in top hat and tails on Plate day, had a truly royal-feeling day at the races as Woodbine continues to build up its showcase Canadian race into one of the biggest events of the summer in Toronto.

Sir Dudley Digges comes with his own story of British power and intrigue and Ramsey regaled the fans and press corps with the tale of the horse’s name.

“I don’t want to brag but I am directly descended to King Edward III. My wife is into genealogy and we found a book with my grandmother’s name who traced back to him,” said Ramsey.

“Sir Dudley Digges was a cousin of the King and he was thrown into the Tower of London for a transgression about the King. He did not believe in the divine right of Kings saying he lived with a King and he pulled his trousers on one leg at a time like everyone did.”

Ramsey confirmed the story on a recent trip overseas, learning also that Digges’ son Charles, his second son, was the one who came to America.

“Thank goodness, or I would still be over there,” Ramsey said, laughing.

Sir Dudley Digges was tabbed as a lazy, slow learner by trainer Mike Maker and it took the horse seven races to win his maiden, doing so on the turf at Keeneland in April. Following his first race off the maiden score, the Plate Trial, the his team was confident he would go forward in the big race itself.

“I bet $600 across the board on him in New York,” said Ramsey. “I got the exactor big time and bet about $3,600 on him, I thought he was a big overlay.”

More Canadian-breds will be coming into the Ramsey fold soon as 10 mares were sent up to the court of We Miss Artie this spring. “We’ll have some Canadian-breds coming up so who knows, we could be back again.”

Co-features on the stakes-laden Plate card also provided plenty of excitement. Lexie Lou, the 2014 Plate winner, won her second graded stakes race of the season with a determined win in the Dance Smartly Stakes (Grade 2) at 1 1/8 miles on the grass. Gary Barber’s remarkable mare had also won the Nassau Stakes (Grade 2) before a failed trip to New York for the Grade 1 Just a Game Handicap.

Last year’s Plate favourite, Danish Dynaformer, who won the Breeders’ Stakes last summer, took his first victory since then in the Singspiel Stakes (Grade 3) for Charles Fipke and trainer Roger Attfield, while Bent Hutzel’s Passion for Action won the Highlander Stakes (Grade 2) for his third stakes win of the season.