08/04/2011 7:33PM

Ben's Cat and Cardashi Wage War

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Every racing fan loves a good story and there were plenty of them at Penn National last Saturday night.  

BEN'S CAT wasn't supposed to make it to the races at all, let alone start as the highweight and betting choice in the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap.  

After suffering a broken pelvis prior to his career debut, Ben's Cat's future as a racer was cloudy indeed.  Ben's Cat is all heart, however, and his connections are capable and patient.  Trained by King Leatherbury, Ben's Cat finally made his initial start in May of his 4-year-old season and promptly won his first eight races.  This year, he showed off a strong late kick to win the Turf Sprint Stakes at Pimlico before finishing a dirty head shy of the winner in the Parx Dash on June 18.  

With all of the "big-name" stables shipping to Penn National for the plethora of stakes races over the long weekend, it was easy for fans to forget old CARDASHI, the local hope trained by Timothy Kreiser.  The winner of the 2009 Governor's Cup, Cardashi tuned up for this year's running with a game, come-from-behind win in a $25,000 claimer at Penn National on July 11.  Cardashi was somewhat taken out of his element in that race after breaking poorly and his 4-6 record over the local sod pointed him out as a horse-for-course.  

In the paddock, both combatants seemed ready for battle.  Ben's Cat looked like a millon bucks in the parade ring while Cardashi seemed to enjoy dragging his poor hander in circles.  When the gates opened, Cardashi broke like a shot and was hustled to the front.  He dueled eventual third-finisher Car Thief into defeat while Ben's Cat raced in tight while in between rivals.  Heading into the final furlong, the local runner looked safe, but Ben's Cat dug into his well of class.  He extricated himself from in between rivals and charged at Cardashi.  The finish was close, but Ben's Cat got up to win by a neck, upping his record to 11 wins from 16 starts.  

Although it's still early, one must wonder if Ben's Cat can duplicate the feats of last year's Governor's Cup winner, Chamberlain Bridge.  That quick performer went on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs during the fall.  

Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing some exciting racing at Penn National last week, but I also got an opportunity to meet up with bloggers Curt V., Laura Lawduck, and Mike A.  Curt, Laura and Mike are extremely passionate about this game and it was really a pleasure to hang out with them for a spell.

*STAY THIRSTY earned a big number in winning the Jim Dandy, but he'll have to do it again before I jump on the bandwagon.  It just didn't seem like anyone else in the race did any running and I didn't like the way that Stay Thirsty hopped to his wrong lead in the final strides of the race.

*COIL and SHACKLEFORD put on a nice show in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth and look to be the two top 3-year-olds on the main track.  The former didn't break well, but settled nicely at the back of the pack before uncorking an eye-catching rally.  Shackleford looked Coil in the eye when that when came calling and really didn't blink in the stretch.  

*My apologies for not posting as often as Saratoga is my busiest time of the year and the "Spa Babies" column keeps me extremely busy.  I'll get to your questions. comments and pp requests as soon as I can.

*This week, the legendary Harvey Pack will host the Saturday Saratoga Pick 4 Segment with Mike Beer and myself.  Make sure to check it out.  It should be posted on Friday afternoon/evening.  Mike and I will also break down some of the weekend's biggest stakes races like the Test, Clement L. Hirsch, West Virginia Derby and the Whitney.

Speaking of the Whitney...

Congrats to Matt B. for finishing first in last week's HandiGambling exercise.  This week's race is the Whitney Handicap on Saturday at the Spa.  

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.
 
Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan."
 
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.
 
Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.
 
Please separate the play from the analysis and label the play "HG" with the program numbers (instead of the horse's name) for easier scoring.
 
In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please.
 
I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.
 
I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.
 
Best of luck to all
 

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