At 10 years old, The Jim Stable's Ben's Cat has captured his fifth $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint for Hall of Famer King Leatherbury. He's captured the race at Pimlico for the last four years in a row, and five times over the past six years. The gelded son of Parker's Storm Cat covered the five furlongs over the firm turf in :56.10, closing with his patented late rush get his head in front at the wire.
“He just keeps going,” said Leatherbury. “They say too many thrills will kill you, but I can attest that that is not the case. I'd have been dead a long time ago if that were true. This is actually the horse that keeps me going, fortunately. I've been using the same exercise rider from Day One and every time I asked him if he was as good coming into this race as last year, he told me, ‘He's better.'”
Ridden by Trevor McCarthy, Ben's Cat broke well and settled in fourth along the rail for the early part of the sprint. The super-sharp Rocket Heat was very fast out of the gate, nearly appearing to break a half-step in front of the field. He streaked out for the lead, extending his advantage to three lengths through a first quarter in :21.46. Rapid Dan tracked him from second, and longshot Spring to the Sky held third just outside of Ben's Cat.
Through the turn, Ben's Cat clung to the temporary rail, saving all the ground from his inside position. Though Rocket Heat had a solid lead at the head of the lane, both Spring to the Sky and Ben's Cat were closing well in the final sixteenth of a mile. Ben's Cat craftily passed horses on the rail, then McCarthy angled him out to go after the leader, finding Spring to the Sky right alongside him. Though the latter put up a game fight, Ben's Cat refused to give in, reaching for the wire and stubbornly thrusting his head in front to get the victory. Spring to the Sky was a head back in second, and Rocket Heat was just another neck back in third.
“He's an unbelievable horse, by far, the best horse I've ever been on,” said McCarthy. “I've just never seen a horse like that. You just have to give him something to run at. He was running up the fence, up the fence, and when I swung him out into the clear, I knew we were gone. I mean, just unbelievable. He knows where the wire is and says, ‘Let's go Trevor, let's go.' He gave me his all and I wasn't worried at all.”
Bred in Maryland by the King's K. T. Leatherbury Associates, the fan-favorite Ben's Cat has now won 32 of his 55 lifetime starts. His career earnings stand at over $2.6 million, and Leatherbury believes this might be the gelding's best season yet.
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