05/20/2016 3:40PM

Ben's Cat foils Bruce Brown again in Jim McKay Turf Sprint

John Bambury
Ben's Cat rallies between pacesetter Rocket Heat on the raill and 25-1 outsider Spring to the Sky under first-time rider Trevor McCarthy to win the Jim McKay Turf Sprint for the fifth time.

BALTIMORE - Watching Ben’s Cat run never gets old. Unless you’re trainer Bruce Brown.

Brown has been chasing Ben’s Cat for years with his turf sprinters, but he can never seem to catch him. Friday, the 10-year-old Ben’s Cat broke Brown’s heart again while making the heart of his own 83-year-old trainer King Leatherbury skip a few beats with a neck victory over the Brown-trained Spring to the Sky in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes at Pimlico.

The result was the same as in 2013 when Ben’s Cat won this race over Spring to the Sky. Brown has also finished second to Ben’s Cat in other stakes with Night Officer, who ran fourth in this race Friday.

“You got to tip your hat,” Brown said. “I keep saying we got to be able to get him one year.  I think that’s been like six years I’ve been saying that. He’s just a really good horse and this is his backyard.”

Ben’s Cat won for the 32nd time in 55 starts. This was Ben’s Cat fifth victory in the Jim McKay and fourth consecutive.

“I know he brings tears to my eyes when he runs a race like that,” said Leatherbury, inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. “It proves that thrills don’t weaken your health because I would have been dead a couple of years ago.”

Trevor McCarthy, who turned 22 last week, rode Ben’s Cat for the first time in an allowance victory at Laurel on May 1. Friday, Ben’s Cat was fourth early while Rocket Heat, the 4-5 favorite, set fractions of 21.46 seconds and 44.04 for the opening half-mile while opening a 2 1/2-length lead.

Spring to the Sky, a new gelding, was chasing Rocket Heat and appeared ready to go by Rocket Heat and post an upset win at odds of 25-1. But McCarthy and Ben’s Cat got off the rail, split horses, and got to the wire first.

Spring to the Sky was second by a half-length over Rocket Heat, who was followed by Night Officer, Rapid Dan, Jack’s in the Deck, Expected Ruler, and Big Guy Ian.

Ben’s Cat, who returned to a loud ovation from the Pimlico railbirds, covered the five furlongs in 56.10 seconds and returned $7 as the second choice.

“I’ve never seen a horse like that. He loves to run at something and he was running up the fence, running up the fence, and I had to wait a minute before I swung him out,” McCarthy said. “I knew once I got in the clear he was going to re-break. He’s unbelievable.”

Leatherbury is hoping to bring Ben’s Cat back for the 2017 Jim McKay. If it’s still around.

“The last time he won a race five times they discontinued the race; that was the Maryland Million Turf Sprint,” Leatherbury said. “They said you won it enough, we’re not going to have it anymore. Hopefully, the Jim McKay will be back again next year.”