04/05/2017 9:16AM

Ben's Cat, 11, nears first start of year

Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat wins the Jim McKay Turf Sprint for the fourth straight year in 2016.

King Leatherbury won with an 11-year-old last Saturday at Laurel Park. He hopes to win with another one in the not-too-distant future.

Leatherbury’s victory last weekend came in a $7,500 claiming race with Classic Wildcat, a horse he claimed for $5,000 in May 2013 and has since won with 11 times. Leatherbury’s other 11-year-old is Ben’s Cat, a 32-time winner and an earner of $2.6 million.

“When Classic Wildcat took the lead at the sixteenth pole, I said, ‘Now go back to the barn and tell Ben that it can be done.’ ” Leatherbury said. “Eleven-year-olds can win. I’m hoping to get one more season out of Ben. We’ll see.”

Ben’s Cat has worked four times since March 11 and is now up to breezing five furlongs. Leatherbury is likely to start Ben’s Cat in an overnight race, and if he runs well, Leatherbury will then consider the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico, a race Ben’s Cat has won four times in a row and five times in the last six years.

“He’s not too far off,” said Leatherbury, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2015. “I’ll get one more work into him and then start looking for a race. He’s doing very nicely. He’s always done everything right.”

Ben’s Cat won his first two starts in 2016 before finishing third in the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, the Grade 3 Parx Dash, and the Maryland-bred Mister Diz Stakes. He tailed off in his final two starts at 10, finishing off the board in the Laurel Dash and the Maryland Million Sprint.

As he does each year, Leatherbury gave Ben’s Cat the winter off on a Maryland farm.

Leatherbury, who recently turned 84, has won 6,480 races in his career to rank fourth in North American racing history.

Turf racing this weekend?

Laurel Park had planned to begin turf racing last weekend but couldn’t because of wet weather. Although rain was forecast for Thursday morning, the hope is that Friday’s three grass races can stay on the track’s 142-foot-wide surface, which has six different courses.

The turf races are carded as races 3, 5, and 7 and have a total of 28 horses entered to run on turf. Besides the nightcap, which has nine horses, they are the largest fields of the day.

Laurel has a late pick-five carryover of $5,855 on races 5-9. The 50-cent bet has a 12 percent takeout. The Rainbow 6, on races 4-9, has a carryover of $2,662, and the race 1 Super Hi 5 has a carryover of $1,597. A race needs at least seven starters for the Super Hi 5 to be offered.