11/26/2013 11:18AM

Dick Jerardi: Big stakes purses at Penn National on Thanksgiving eve card

Tom Keyser
Ben's Cat will try for his 19th stakes win when he starts in Wednesday's six-furlong Fabulous Strike at Penn National.

Penn National has tried to combine its major stakes races on two cards, one in between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and the other on Thanksgiving eve. The first Penn Mile Day this June was an unqualified success. This is the third day-before-Thanksgiving extravaganza.

If the weather, which sounds ominous, does not mess it up, the track has four very serious races worth $625,000 in purses.
The headliner, as he is whenever he runs, is Ben’s Cat. He will run in the $250,000 Fabulous Strike at six furlongs on the main track. Ben’s Cat has made his reputation on the grass, but he won this race last year with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. And if the track is sloppy, he is a slop freak.

Ben’s Cat will be in search of his 19th stakes win and, if he does win, will be closing on $1.9 million in career earnings.

“It gives me confidence that he runs so well at Penn National,” said King Leatherbury, who trains Ben’s Cat. “In his most recent race, the Maryland Million Turf [at Laurel Park], he ran a mile, which was a little bit long for him, and cutting back to six furlongs should really work out well.”

This is no easy spot. Ben’s Cat will have to run down the amazing Ribo Bobo, who won the Maryland Million Sprint. Ribo Bobo is undefeated in nine 2013 starts and won at Penn in June by 11 lengths. Jason Servis claimed the gelding for $8,000 back in January at Gulfstream Park, lost him for $6,250, and then claimed him back for $6,250 in his next race. All Ribo Bobo has done during the streak is win his races by a combined 50 lengths. His last five Beyers are: 97, 98, 100, 95, and 104.

“Absolutely one of the reasons that we came for the race is that he ran so well at Penn National earlier this year,” Servis said. “His last few races he has beat some really good horses, and his win in the Maryland Million was terrific.”

The four stakes, part of an early pick four, are the first four races on the card, starting at 6 p.m. and ending with the Fabulous Strike at 7:22. They will start with the six-furlong, $75,000 Blue Mountain for 2-year-old Pennsylvania-bred fillies; the six-furlong, $150,000 Lady in Waiting for fillies and mares; and the 1 1/16-mile, $150,000 Swatara for 3-year-olds and up.

The Lady in Waiting drew a field of 10 with combined earnings of $2.8 million. The Swatara may end up with a few scratches, but the early entries have combined to earn $3.1 million.