10-Year-Old Gelding Can Equal North American Record with Victory
LAUREL, MD – After all these years, Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury doesn’t even try to search for the right word to describe his stable star, 10-year-old multimillionaire gelding Ben’s Cat.
Instead, the 83-year-old Leatherbury lets others do it for him.
“Absolutely amazing,” he said. “It’s funny, that word. I had three different riders get off of him the first time each one of them rode him and they came to the winner’s circle, and that was the one word they used. 'Amazing.' And he is.”
Bred, owned and trained by Leatherbury’s The Jim Stable, Ben’s Cat will go after his third win of the year and a North American record-tying seventh straight victory in the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 33rd running of the six-furlong Mister Diz for 3-year-olds and up is one of two stakes on the 11-race Maryland Pride Day program, joined by the $75,000 Jameela Stakes for fillies and mares 3 and up, also at six furlongs. Both races are restricted to Maryland-bred/-sired horses and scheduled to be run on the Fort Marcy Turf Course.
According to statistics provided by Equibase, only one other horse has won the same stakes race seven consecutive years. Leaping Plum won the four-furlong Grasmick Handicap at Nebraska’s Fonner Park from 1995-2001 and again in 2003 for owners Paul Miskimins and Clyde Woods and trainer Joe Moss.
Through 57 lifetime starts, Ben’s Cat has 32 wins, 26 of them in stakes, including four Grade 3 races, and $2,629,782 in purse earnings. He has won the Mister Diz at both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course with four different riders over three different distances on turf and dirt. It was last run at six furlongs on the grass in 2010, which marked the beginning of Ben’s Cat’s run.
Maryland’s leading jockey Trevor McCarthy took over as the regular rider for Ben’s Cat this year. Together they won an open allowance May 1 at Laurel and the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 20 at Pimlico -- a race that Ben's Cat has won four years straight and five times in the past six years. They were third in both the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Stakes June 4 at Penn National and Parx Dash (G3) July 9 at Parx.
“He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever been on,” McCarthy said. “This race is going to probably come up easier than the last couple he’s been in, which is great. He’s been running some really hard races. He’s been running a lot this year and he’s really been giving 100 percent of himself every time. For him to get a bit of a class drop is good. It’s good for every horse. He’s going into the race great. Confidence-wise, he’s good there. He’s happy. I just want to thank [everyone] for doing such a great job with him and putting me aboard. I’m really excited to see how he does.”
Ben’s Cat returns to a Laurel turf where he owns 11 wins from 18 lifetime starts, with four seconds and a third. He has finished in the top three in 13 of 15 tries at six furlongs, nine of them wins.
“Most horse people know that it’s hard to win all the time, so when he gets beat they still support him. Running third, they’ll give him credit. I might be disappointed, but they’ll say, ‘Well he was third, he ran a good race.’ They understand that,” Leatherbury said. “They know the game and any horse can get beat in any one race.”
Ben’s Cat appears formidable in his return to restricted company. He has run in restricted races just twice in the past 1 ½ years, finishing second in the 2015 Maryland Million Sprint at six furlongs on Laurel’s main track, and winning the 2015 Mister Diz that August.
On Saturday, Ben’s Cat will carry McCarthy and highweight of 124 pounds from outside Post 11, spotting his rivals four to eight pounds.
“I was disappointed with his last race because I gave him a good excuse in my mind when he got beat. He was the best horse in the race and he just didn’t run his race that day. I wasn’t worried about the opposition,” Leatherbury said. “The last time I really wasn’t worried about the opposition although the horse that won is a genuine good horse up at Parx. I thought I could win that day. He has not come back to his good numbers from last year, but he doesn’t need a good number from last year to win the Mister Diz being a restricted, Maryland-bred race.”
Looking to spoil Ben’s Cat’s bid at history are stakes-placed A P Elvis, making just his second start since Nov. 1, and Barrel of Love, winless in 13 starts dating back to last May; recent allowance winners Blu Moon Ace, Connemara Coast, Frisky Magician, Grandiflora and Just Jack; John Jones in his first start for trainer Lacey Gaudet; Grade 3-placed Rockinn on Bye, winless in six turf starts; and Team Tim.
“He knows where he is out on the racetrack. He knows when to move and when not to move. He almost does it on his own,” McCarthy said. “It kind of makes you nervous sometimes but he doesn’t let you down. The field gets to running away from him a little bit but he tells you just to sit on him and wait and wait and he’s got a really awesome kick when he does kick.”