09/29/2010 3:09PM

Ben's Cat staying on grass for Maryland Million Turf Sprint

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ben's Cat has been entered in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint at Laurel Park.

In his first five career races, the unbeaten Ben’s Cat has run just once on grass. Nevertheless, trainer King Leatherbury has chosen to have Ben’s Cat face 10 rivals – including the last three winners of the $100,000 stakes – in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint rather than challenge defending champion Roaring Lion and seven others in the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint.

Overall, 110 horses were entered Wednesday for the 11 races worth a collective $1.05 million on Saturday’s 25th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million card for the offspring of Maryland sires at Laurel Park. First post time is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

The 4-year-old Ben’s Cat, who won his turf debut in the Mister Diz Stakes last time out, must face defending champion Natural Seven, the millionaire Heros Reward, who won the race in 2008, and 2007 winner Kosmo’s Buddy in the 5 1/2-furlong Turf Sprint.

But Perkins avoided having to send his horse against Roaring Lion, whose 11-for-28 lifetime record includes back-to-back wins in the Teddy Drone and Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park, plus a second in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap.

In addition to Roaring Lion and Natural Seven, three other champions from 2009 are back to defend their titles – All Giving in the $100,000 Distaff, Talkin About Love in the $100,000 Ladies, and Serenadia in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap.

The featured $150,000 Maryland Million Classic drew a field of eight, including Cuba and Regal Solo, who finished second and third last year. Cuba, now 9, won the race two years ago.

Trainer John Salzman Jr. opted to keep his star 2-year-old filly Twelve Pack Shelly in against her own sex in the Maryland Million Lassie rather than challenge colts in the Nursery. Twelve Pack Shelly, who set a Laurel track record in her debut in April, has won three straight, including stakes at Monmouth Park and Charles Town.

The Maryland Million is the second biggest day of racing in the state, topped only by the Preakness. In its previous 24 runnings, attendance has topped 20,000 on 20 occasions.