Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Headache is the "rags to riches" story of the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic. Claimed for just $25,000 in January of 2009, Headache has gone on to win over $750,000 dollars, along with a shot at the $5 million purse in this year's Classic on Nov. 5th.
Trainer: Michael Maker
Morning Line Odds: 30/1
Career Record (Str-1st-2nd-3rd): 26-8-5-5
Career Earnings: $768,398
Pedigree: Sired by Tapit out of a Woodman mare (Pamric)
Tapit won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity, and has sired two other Breeders' Cup winners: Stardom Bound (2008 Juvenile Fillies) and Tapitsfly (2009 Juvenile Fillies Turf).
Key Stakes Wins: Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup (Hawthorne), Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap (Prairie Meadows)
Overview: It's always a bit of a challenge when handicapping a race like this year's Classic and looking at a horse like Headache. This colt has won a couple of good stakes races during the year (G2-Hawtorne Gold Cup, G3-Cornhusker Handicap), but the only time he faced a field that remotely resembled this year's Classic, he finished well back of the top contenders.
After his win in the Cornhusker, Headache took on Tizway and Flat Out in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga where he finished 5th, beaten over seven lengths. To his credit, Headache experienced some trouble in that race: the chart indicated that he lunged at the break and later on he had to take up slightly due to racing in tight quarters. But at the same time, he never mounted a serious challenge to the top finishers, even if he was clearly one of the "best of the rest' with his 5th place finish. If you compare his last three races (Cornhusker, Whitney, and Hawthorne Gold Cup) based only on the speed figures, it appears Headache ran at the same level of race in all three, but simply faced weaker fields in the two races he won. And that's Headache's greatest challenge in this year's Classic: elevating his performance to match that of the horses around him.
Headache has raced at Churchill Downs seven times in his career, winning three races and finishing 2nd and 3rd in two others; he should have no problem taking to the surface. The mile and a quarter distance also shouldn't be a problem for this colt since he won a race at the Classic distance in his last start.
In most of his recent races, Headache has preferred to run as a closer and has found himself eight or nine lengths back of the pacesetters in the early going. That's a difficult running style to use successfully in races with big, crowded fields because of the possibility of encountering traffic in the home stretch. On the other hand, Churchill Downs has a very long stretch drive (1,234.5 feet) giving closers a lot of time to shake free of any trouble to mount a late charge (see Zenyatta in the 2010 Classic).
The current five-day forecast for Churchill Downs suggests that this year's Breeder's Cup might be able to sneak by without any rain. That would certainly be good news for Headache as he's never won a race over a wet track in five lifetime starts.
Headache is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and was purchased for $25,000 in a claiming race at Belmont Park on Sept. 30th, 2009. [That claim was actually a re-claim; Headache was originally owned by the Ramsey's until he was claimed for $20k at Saratoga on Sept. 2nd, 2009. They re-claimed the colt the very next time he raced.] It took Headache a while to find his best form, something that trainer Michael Maker attributes to simply understanding the game of horse racing. "He's always had talent," stated Maker, "he's just been a slow learner. He was a bit of a hanger earlier in his career, and would just have one excuse after another. Now he seems to have gotten over that bad habit and figured it out."
2011 Hawthorne Gold Cup