Oh, what might have been. Today at Laurel Park, amidst a sea of slop, the right horse won, but it was in the wrong race. As Ben’s Cat effortlessly strode away from five foes to win the $75,000 Laurel Dash Stakes all I could think was that he should be running instead in the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
As I chronicled earlier this week, the specter of a $100,000 supplemental fee proved too much for his connections to muster, and therefore they did not enter the horse, that I call the best turf sprinter in the nation, into the race he was seemingly born to run. As for the race today, it was no contest.
With Jeremy Rose sitting confidently in the irons, Ben’s Cat patiently stalked a strong early pace set by front runners Ju Jitsu Jax and Royal Currier. As the horses approached the stretch, the King Leatherbury trainee ambled easily up to the leaders and took command with powerful superiority. He coasted to the wire in the six-furlong test, which had been originally scheduled for the turf, clear by two lengths over Royal Currier and Action Andy and paid $3.80 for the win.
After the race, rider Jeremy Rose had this to say, “Ben just toyed with them. To me it was one of his more powerful races.”
Rose, who rode Afleet Alex to victories in the 2005 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, says Ben’s Cat is the third best horse he has ever ridden.
“Alex, Havre de Grace and him are 1-2-3,” added Rose. “I have been on some really top horses, including Big Brown and Toccet, but Ben’s Cat is better than them.”
Meanwhile, breeder, owner, and trainer, Leatherbury added, “He keeps amazing me. He did it for the fun of it today.”
Amazing yes, today’s win raised his career record to 14 of 19 with nine stakes victories, and earnings just shy of $800,000, but not quite amazing enough to ante up the money for the Breeders’ Cup.
For those of you who regularly read this daily column, I believe you know me not to be the stand on the soapbox kind of guy, but in this situation, I will not bite my tongue. The connections of Ben’s Cat have a great horse. The Breeders’ Cup is our year-end world championships. The two should go together; it should be as simple as that.
His connections fumbled the ball when they did not supplement him for $25,000 when they had the chance earlier this year, and now they balked at putting up the $100,000 needed now, and just a small portion of the money he has earned them this year, for a shot at the biggest race of their lives. It was not a very sporting decision in my eyes.
So on Saturday, as I watch horses like Chamberlain Bridge, Perfect Officer, Regally Ready, and Country Day, all of whom Ben’s Cat ran right by a few races ago, compete for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, I will be thinking about the horse who won a small stakes today at Laurel, and what might have been.