Farewell To The ‘Amazing, Magnificent’ Ben’s Cat

by | 11.11.2017 | 3:50pm
King Leatherbury prepares to lay orange roses at Ben's Cat's final resting place

Under a brilliant sky of blue on a Saturday morning that brought freezing temperatures to the Mid-Atlantic, they laid the remains of Ben's Cat in the frozen ground at Laurel Park.

In a ceremony attended by approximately 150 horsemen, jockeys and fans – and breeder, owner and Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury – Ben's Cat's remains were lowered into the ground on the northeast side of Laurel's historic paddock. He died from complications following surgery earlier this year.

“Ben's Cat was an amazing, magnificent animal,” said Leatherbury, who bent down to rest a dozen orange roses – the color of Leatherbury's and Ben's Cat silks – in front of the gelding's final resting place.

After thanking the crowd for attending, Leatherbury turned back to face Ben's Cat's final resting place and saluted.

The plaque over the gravesite reads:

Ben's Cat

            April 17, 2006 – July 18, 2017

            63 starts, 32 wins (including 26 stakes)


            Bred and trained by

            King Leatherbury

            Owned by the Jim Stable

            “The Beast from the East”

Pastor Richard Monterrey, a former Maryland jockey, eulogized four-time Maryland Horse of the Year Ben's Cat as a horse who “gave us incredible moments in Maryland racing and Thoroughbred racing.”

“He gave us chills,” Monterrey said.

Those attending included Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra, Vice President of Racing Georganne Hale, jockeys Trevor McCarthy, Julian Pimentel, and former jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr., assistant trainer Avon Thorpe and groom Fern Augusti.

Also attending was Chris Welker, whose farm in Kentucky Ben's Cat was retired to, as well as several fans from across the country including James Weiler and Angie Bailey, who flew from Cincinnati for the service.

“He was very special,” Weiler said. “I watched his races from Turfway Park. I remember races like the Parx Dash and especially the McKay, when he came running from way back between horses. He was incredible.”

After the services, Leatherbury and every jockey who won aboard Ben's Cat – Pimentel, McCarthy, Jeremy Rose, Homeister, Horacio Karamanos – signed memorabilia and a Ben's Cat poster while chatting with fans.

After the third race, Leatherbury was presented with a collage of Ben's Cat's photographs by award-winning Maryland Jockey Club photographer Jim McCue, and a portrait of Ben's Cat with Leatherbury by Pulitzer Prize finalist photographer Jon Kral.

“I'm overwhelmed by the appreciation everyone has for Ben's Cat,” Leatherbury said.

Less than 30 minutes after the ceremony, Leatherbury's silks were back in the winner's circle after winning the fourth race with the 11-year-old gelding Classic Wildcat.

Ben's Cat tribute at Laurel Park

  • Ida Lee

    Farewell Beautiful Boy…..

  • Bein

    Ben’s Cat was pure fun. I’m glad he was here. Sweet grass, sunshine and a dash now and then forever now, Ben. You were “our” horse.

  • Billy

    “The beast from the east” legends never die rip

  • Delrene

    I have friends that flew from Texas to be there for this wonderful tribute. We all loved this horse so much. Rest in peace, beautiful boy.

  • Greg J.

    Rest in peace Champ.

  • Flying J

    That photo of King makes my heart ache.

  • Michael Algeo

    What an AWESOME tribute to a great Maryland horse, Ben’s Cat. My sincere apologies for not being there in person to celebrate a GREAT horse. I was at the Vietnam Wall reading names on the Wall in honor of the 35th Anniversary of the Wall🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸……looking forward to many more great legends in Maryland Racing.
    Michael Algeo
    Maryland Racing Co

  • Noelle

    It was very good to be at Laurel Park today – so many fans who loved Ben’s Cat, I was among them. He never disappointed us. He lost occasionally, but never disappointed.

  • Marlaine Meeker

    ” I guess God only intended him to be a racehorse”-Chris Welker told the King. And what a racehorse he was. Thank you Laurel Park for this day and thank you Ben’s Cat.

  • Elizabeth Stowell

    Tears came to my eyes when I read that Leatherby saluted Ben’s Cat’s name.

  • Elizabeth Stowell

    Tears came to my eyes when I read that Leatherby saluted his old friend, Ben’s Cat.

  • Judy Gaddis

    Boy that video tribute really tore me up and I never even got to see him run in person………the look on King Leatherbury’s face in the top photograph says it all.

    Rest In Peace, Ben – you were something SPECIAL!

  • ctgreyhound

    It was more than a fond farewell. Ben’s Cat meant so much to so many. The King and his Cat, what a team. His races were a blur; they were short and sweet. But his memory is indelible as it should be.

  • Doctor Ichabod

    From the grave stone of another lasting legend john Henry “If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to Heaven, and bring you home again.”

    Bens cat and the king forever

  • Genellen

    I just had a chance to read this and I am in tears. For some reason yesterday, I kept thinking about Ben’s Cat — a horse I never even saw race. What a touching tribute to this champion. On Veteran’s Day, he was truly honored as a veteran track warrior.

    Maybe Classic Wildcat was channeling Ben’s spirit in winning that race? One cat saluting another….

  • gammyp6

    He was magnificent….but I don’t know why he was sent away….”what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget…so it’s the laughter , we will remember, whenever we remember…..the way we were….sweet dreams Ben.

  • Convene

    In amongst all the bad stuff people say and do in and about our game, how heartening it is to see how we all come together to honor and mourn our hoofed heros. And Ben was a true hero. I think most of us could learn priceless lessons from someone who never, ever gave less than his best and did his job without complaining. He was a superhorse, one of those who remind us all of why we fell in love with racing. I feel most blessed to have been a witness to his incredible journey. Enjoy the green grass and the rolling pastures of the Rainbow Bridge. You will never be forgotten.

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