he Maryland Jockey Club celebrated the birthday of legendary trainer King Leatherbury, who turns 80 on Tuesday, March 26 with a presentation in the winners' circle after the third race. All fans attending Laurel Saturday received a complimentary button and free birthday cupcakes.
“It is a little embarrassing but I appreciate the tribute,” Leatherbury said.
Leatherbury has 52 training titles at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course on his resume, winning 24 of 28 meets at Laurel from 1981 to 1996 and winning or sharing 26 of 35 meets at Pimlico from 1974 to 1997. He had four consecutive 300-win campaigns in the mid-1970's and was the nation's leading conditioner in 1977 and 1978.
“I got started because my father had horses, a breeder and owner and I just enjoyed betting on them, really, so I decided to get in the game,” added Leatherbury, who saddled his first winner in 1959 at Sunshine Park. “I have never really considered this work. I enjoy it, which has probably made the difference.”
In his storied career, King Leatherbury:
- became the third trainer in history to win 6,000 races when Cherokee Sunrise won at Timonium on August 23, 2003
- in his heyday, Leatherbury was one of the “Big Four” of Maryland racing along with Buddy Delp, Dick Dutrow and John Tammaro—conditioners who dominated the mid-Atlantic circuits during the 1970s
- star runner Ben's Cat won five stakes races in 2012 including his third consecutive Maryland Million Turf Sprint, which gave the trainer his 10th Maryland Million score, one more than Dale Capuano for the top spot among trainers
- Catatonic won the Hempstead (G1) at Belmont Park in 1987
- Taking Risks had five stakes wins in 1994, including the Iselin Handicap (G1) at Monmouth Park, three graded races in Maryland (William Donald Schaefer, Baltimore Breeders' Cup & Jennings Handicap) and the Maryland Million Classic
- also won graded races with Learned Jake, Ameri Valay, Dynamic Trick and Ah Day
- has saddled four Preakness starters: Indigo Star (fifth-1978), Thirty Eight Paces (fourth-1981), I Am The Game (fourth-1985) and Malibu Moonshine (eighth-2005)
“I really enjoyed the days of the Big Four,” added Leatherbury. “It was fun trying to compete with them and it made us all better trainers.”
Though he currently ranks fourth on the all-time win list with 6,373 career winners, Leatherbury is not a member of the Racing Hall of Fame.
“I think King was the easiest person to ride for, especially of the big trainers. He was always so calm and collected-never really got over excited. I don't ever remember him in a bad mood which is unusual because I know he likes to gamble a bit,” said Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron, who rode for Leatherbury in the mid- 1970's. “I think the individuals involved in placing the names on the Hall of Fame nomination ballot need to wake up and examine his record They don't even have to dig deep on how incredibly successful this man has been.”
The Maryland native is currently battling Mike Trombetta and Juan Vazquez for second place in the Laurel Park winter meet standings, behind Hugh McMahon, with one week remaining in the stand.
Leatherbury indicated Ben's Cat will make his 2013 debut at Pimlico on April 6 in the Mister Diz Stakes. The son of Parker's Storm cat will be looking for his fourth consecutive victory in the Mister Diz.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.