11/27/2014 1:08PM

Ben's Cat goes for third straight Fabulous Strike win

B & D Photography
Ben's Cat (inside) looks for his third straight Fabulous Strike win Saturday.

The Saturday evening card at Penn National features three stakes, topped by the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap at six furlongs. These races originally were scheduled for last Wednesday but had to be postponed due to a winter storm, and the entire program, as originally drawn, was pushed to Saturday.

The Fabulous Strike may have benefited from the delay. Four of the 12 entrants were cross-entered in Thursday’s Fall Highweight, but the connections of three of them – River Rocks, Strapping Groom, and Tightend Touchdown – have opted to race at Penn National rather than run over a wet track at Aqueduct. Weekend Hideaway has been scratched.

The three stakes are carded as races 2-4 and will be run between 6:27 p.m. and 7:22 p.m. A pick three links the stakes, and a pick four begins on race 1 at 6 p.m. Both are 50-cent wagers. The entire card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

The pick four begins with a first-level allowance for Pennsylvania-breds that has eight betting interests. I may try to skate through with Zuma Moon (Rick Violette, Irad Ortiz Jr.) and History Book (Blane Servis, Kendrick Carmouche).

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In order, the stakes are the $75,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies for statebreds, which has a field of 12, with two multihorse entries and nine betting interests; the $100,000 Swatara, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, with a field of 11; and the Fabulous Strike, which has a field of 11 after the scratch.

Ben’s Cat has won the last two runnings of the Fabulous Strike. King Leatherbury, his owner, trainer, and breeder, entered him in the Nov. 15 De Francis Dash at Laurel but scratched to run here instead.

Ben’s Cat hasn’t started since the Oct. 18 Maryland Million Turf, which at a mile is beyond his best distance. Ben’s Cat won the pace battle in that race with Roadhog but lost the war when Talk Show Man, who sat a perfect trip in third, got up late to win by a half-length.

Ben’s Cat is no lock to three-peat Saturday but remains in sharp form, and as usual, the 8-year-old winner of 27 races and $2.2 million is a major player.

Other top contenders

Bern Identity has better speed than he showed in finishing third with a determined effort in the De Francis Dash and should be a fair price. He will have to overcome the outside post. Paco Lopez regains the mount for trainer Kelly Breen.

Strapping Groom makes his first start since April for trainer David Jacobson. There are some gaps in his work pattern, but he was in the best form of his career before being forced to the sidelines with quarter cracks.

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DRF FORMULATOR FACT: Jacobson is 1 for 24 over the past four years with horses returning from a layoff of between 180 and 300 days. Strapping Groom will have been off 238 days.

Tightend Touchdown is 1 for 5 this year but always tries hard. He has made his last 11 starts on turf for trainer Jason Servis but won his most recent main-track start by 5 1/4 lengths at Aqueduct in March 2013.

** Swatara Stakes: Stormin Monarcho found clear sailing to win the Richard Small Stakes at Laurel on Nov. 15 while many horses in the race were battling traffic. He remains in top form.

Ground Transport also figures for trainer Mike Stidham. He missed by a nose to the Bill Mott-trained Abraham in the $102,000 Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Grand last time out.

** Blue Mountain: This race is wide-open. Rockin Jojo, Awesome Singer, and Kazuri are logical selections.