Still going strong at the age of 10, multiple Grade 3-winning Maryland-bred Ben’s Cat will go after his fourth straight victory in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Friday at Pimlico Race Course.
Bred, owned and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat kicked off his ninth season of racing in an open 5 ½-furlong turf allowance May 1 at Laurel Park, coming from off the pace with a determined run down the stretch to get up by a neck.
It was the 31st win for the Parker’s Storm Cat gelding from 54 lifetime starts that include 25 stakes victories and more than $2.5 million in purse earnings. Trevor McCarthy became just the sixth jockey to ride Ben’s Cat in that race, and gets a return call.
“He was bothered all the way around the turn, still kicked in with that same response of his and got the money. That was absolutely fantastic, I thought, under the circumstances,” Leatherbury said. “He’s doing good. Everything’s in order.”
Ben’s Cat breezed three furlongs in 37.40 seconds at Laurel Park May 14 and cuts back to five furlongs for the McKay, a race he has won four times since 2011 by less than five lengths combined.
“I’m expecting a big effort. We’ll see,” Leatherbury said. “This is the race we point for and this is the perfect race for him. Everything’s right, the right timing and it’s not a big enough purse to draw any superstars. I expect him to probably be the favorite.”
Following a seventh-place finish last fall in the Fabulous Strike Handicap, a race he had won the previous three years, many people began wondering whether Ben’s Cat would be back at 10. Leatherbury gave him his annual winter vacation and gradually brought him back for his return.
“He tailed off pretty sharply last year and a lot of people kind of thought that might be the end of his career there, but he snapped back so we’re very optimistic,” Leatherbury said. “He’s got more fans than any horse in Maryland, I guarantee.”
Also entered are Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) winner Rocket Heat, back on nine days rest; Rapid Dan, stubborn pacesetting runner-up to Ben’s Cat in the May 1 allowance for trainer Dale Capuano; Jack’s in the Deck, who beat Ben’s Cat by a nose in the 2015 Maryland Million Sprint last fall; 2015 Tyro Stakes winner Expected Ruler; the Bruce Brown-trained pair of Spring to the Sky and Night Officer, 1-2 in the Laurel Dash last September; and Big Guy Ian.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club