Ramspring Farm Hits the Mark with a Top-Class Turfer

Belle's Finale and her Maxfield colt at Ramspring Farm Katie Petrunyak 

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The rest of the Patrick family had all come and gone by the time Belle's Finale (Ghostzapper) was preparing to sell at the 2017 Keeneland November Sale, but Mary Leigh Patrick was there to watch as the pretty bay mare stepped into the ring. Mary Leigh had decided to hold out for the rest of the session, hoping to find one last addition for Ramspring Farm's broodmare band ahead of another breeding season.

The octogenarian knew she had accomplished the mission when she spotted Belle's Finale, an unraced 3-year-old out of GISW Capote Belle (Capote) carrying her first foal by Not This Time, and she secured the winning $70,000 bid.

Mary Leigh's son Clay Patrick, an attorney in their home town of Frankfort who also works alongside his mother to oversee the daily operations of Ramspring, has spent decades observing his mother's knack for scoping out value at the breeding sale.

“She just loves horses, period,” he explained. “She could look at horses all day long, 24/7. She goes into the sales and waits until the last one sells, making sure they don't slip through the cracks. She's very good at spotting a good-looking horse and finding a new mare that might be a good addition for the broodmare band.”

While the acquisition of Belle's Finale exemplifies her purchaser's bargain buying routine, the mare's accomplishments since she arrived at Ramspring have been far from ordinary as her son Up to the Mark (Not This Time) has emerged as one the top turf horses in the country.

When the Patricks were impressed with Belle's Finale's first foal, they sent the mare back to Not This Time and the resulting foal was Up to the Mark. The February-foaled colt was a standout throughout his time at Ramspring.

Clay Patrick recalled how their team, along with Taylor Made advisor Stuart Angus, always thought highly of the youngster.

“Stuart comes out frequently and inspects the horses and the foals and he gives them a grade,” Patrick explained. “I think the colt was one of the few horses that he's ever given an A- grade to on every occasion that he saw him. He was very handsome, a very good-looking young foal from the day he was born until he went to the sales ring.”

While Patrick described sending the colt through the Keeneland September ring to sell for $450,000 as a thrill, he said it has been even more gratifying to watch Up to the Mark's rise to the top of the sport this year.

Up to the Mark gets a second Grade I victory in the Manhattan S. | Sarah Andrew

The Todd Pletcher-trained, Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables-campaigned 4-year-old has made a name for himself after switching to the turf, recently reeling off masterful performances in the GI Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic S. and the GI Resorts World Casino Manhattan S.

“When he turned for home, it was just a thrill,” Patrick said of the recent victory on Belmont weekend. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck when he got loose. Just seeing the horse that you nurtured and took care of from conception to the day he was a mature athlete ready to run was something. Todd Pletcher and the owners have done a super job with him.”

Up to the Mark was one of the 12 to 15 foals Ramspring Farm breeds every year. The breed-to-sell operation focuses on quality over quantity and has been a family business from the beginning.

Mary Leigh and her husband Mac, a surgeon and businessman deeply involved in the Frankfort community, purchased the 200-acre farm in 1976. They named it after the spring located on the property that once had a ram pump system used to send the spring water uphill for livestock.

“I think it was something that they always wanted to do,” Patrick explained about his parents' desire to get involved in the horse business. “They had it in their mind that they wanted to and then once they took the plunge and got into it, it was in their blood.”

Bail Out Becky (Red Ransom) was one of the first horses to gain the Patricks recognition in the Thoroughbred world when she won the 1995 GI Del Mar Oaks and earned over $700,000 for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Other standouts among the stakes winners to come off the farm over the years include MGSW Lead Story (Editor's Note), 2012 GI Florida Derby runner-up Reveron (Songandaprayer), the MGISP 2017 GIII Turnback the Alarm H. winner Eskenformoney (Eskendereya) and GSP Winning Envelope (More Than Ready).

Ramspring Farm sits alongside the Kentucky River and as the crow flies, is just over a mile from where Dr. James Crow is said to have perfected the sour mash fermentation process used to produce bourbon. Appropriately, the farm is in the early stages of launching their own Ramspring Farm Kentucky Bourbon.

As a teenager growing up at Ramspring, Patrick–who is the youngest of three children–developed his own admiration for the land, the horses and the business.

Unique outbuildings at Ramspring Farm | Katie Petrunyak

“I've always enjoyed being out here and have spent a ton of my time on the farm,” he explained. “The most exciting part for me was to see the foals grow up here and make their way to the sales and hopefully do well on the racetrack. I've moved out here and built a house on the farm.”

Last summer the farm's patriarch, Dr. Patrick, passed away at the age of 87. Mary Leigh continues to oversee the operation from their home that overlooks several of the farm's main pastures, but she now has two more generations of Patricks who have developed their own passion for the land.

“My mother has always taken care of most of the aspects of the farm and is continuing to do so,” Patrick said. “I have three boys and they all enjoy the farm and we combine to take care of it, along with all of the good people that we have working out here. I think the fact that it's a family affair is the most special part of it. We've had a lot of special events and family outings out here. To have the whole family enjoy it is special.”

The farm's star broodmare Belle's Finale has a pipeline of foals that has the Ramspring team excited for the future. While her foal of 2021 died of colic complications, she has two youngsters on the ground and she recently checked in foal to Not This Time.

Her yearling colt by McKinzie is pointing for the Keeneland September Sale.

Belle's Finale and her Maxfield colt | Katie Petrunyak

“He's got a lot of his sire in him and is a big, strong colt,” Patrick shared. “He's got a very powerful motor on him and looks like he's going to be a runner.”

This spring, Belle's Finale foaled a colt from the first crop of Maxfield on April 12.

“The Maxfield is a stoic individual who has a good head on his shoulders and looks great,” said Patrick. “He looks like an A physical to me.”

Until those youngsters hit the sales ring, the Patrick family will await news of Up to the Mark's next challenge as his connections point for a bid in the Breeders' Cup this fall.

“I would say he's definitely the best that we've ever had here,” Patrick said. “That hair-raising experience of seeing him turning for home and giving that final kick, it's something to behold.”

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