10/22/2013 11:44AM

Dick Jerardi: Four statebred stars produce just one win

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Eighttofasttocatch capitalized as the lone speed to win the Maryland Million Classic for the second time.

One Maryland-bred star ran in an unfamiliar spot and lost gallantly. The other Maryland-bred star caught a weak field and won easily. Two West Virginia-bred stars ran in a race each had won. One lost grudgingly. The other lost shockingly.

It was an easy drive Saturday evening from Laurel Park to Charles Town, the Maryland Million to West Virginia Breeders Classics Day. It was Ben’s Cat and Eighttofasttocatch at Laurel, Russell Road and Lucy’s Bob Boy at Charles Town.

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Once they took away the Maryland Million Turf Sprint that Ben’s Cat had won three consecutive years, trainer King Leatherbury found himself in a difficult spot. He wanted to give Ben’s Cat a chance to become the first horse to win four Million races, but it was either going to be six furlongs on dirt or a mile on grass. The horse was entered in both races.

Leatherbury chose wisely, opting for the grass race at a less-than-optimal distance. He wanted no parts of Ribo Bobo in the Sprint. It was a great call as Ribo Bobo continued a perfect 2013 with his ninth consecutive win. Ribo Bobo did not hit 90 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale in his first 41 races. In his last five, he has gotten a 97, 98, 100, a 95, and, on Saturday, a 104.

Jason Servis claimed Ribo Bobo for $8,000 on Jan. 9. He lost him for $6,250 six weeks later and then took him back for the same $6,250 two weeks after that. Nice call.

After watching Ribo Bobo win, Leatherbury was quite relieved. And then it really looked like Ben’s Cat was going to win his race when he went clear in the stretch, only to get run down in the final strides by defending champion Roadhog.

“The distance is not really his best,” Leatherbury said, quite correctly.

The Beyer told the story. Ben’s Cat’s last three grass sprint Beyers were 103, 97, and 98. He got an 87 on Saturday in a race beyond his best distance.

Ben’s Cat, with his 23 lifetime wins and $1.7 million in earnings, turns 8 on Jan. 1. All those 2014 grass sprints and $2 million beckon.

Eighttofasttocatch won the 2011 Maryland Million Classic and then was the beaten favorite in 2012. If you had asked trainer Tim Keefe to pick a field for the 2013 renewal, it would have looked a lot like the one he got. There was no other speed and, frankly, not a lot of talent.

Put the best horse on an easy lead and you are generally going to get an easy win. And that is exactly what went down as there was no catching Eighttofasttocatch at his favorite track. The horse has 13 lifetime wins and 11 of them have been at Laurel. Like Ben’s Cat, Eighttofasttocatch turns 8 on New Year’s Day. It would be no shock if he wins his third Classic next year.

Russell Road, with his 26 wins and $1.5 million in earnings, is beloved in West Virginia. Another 7-year-old holding his form, Russell Road was not favored against defending Classic champion Lucy’s Bob Boy, who had beaten him by eight lengths in the 2012 race.

Still, Russell Road performed brilliantly Saturday night, running Lucy’s Bob Boy (15 of 18 with 3 seconds at Charles Town) back to ninth and looking like the winner in the stretch. But he got run down late by Fred High, a hot 5-year-old having a career year.

You can’t script these races. You just run them. And live with the results.

Indian Jones to BC Marathon

Top Parx Racing trainer Phil Aristone lost Indian Jones for $25,000 in April and then took him back for the same price in May. The horse ran brilliantly when second by a nose to Eldaafer in the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup on Sept. 2 at Parx. Aristone liked the effort so much that he is sending Indian Jones to Santa Anita for the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

It is the same race Parx-based trainer Butch Reid won in 2011 at Churchill Downs with Afleet Again. Indian Jones, a son of Parx legend Smarty Jones, will be in with a chance.

◗ Perhaps, Ben’s Cat and Ribo Bobo can meet up in $250,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap (six furlongs, dirt) on Nov. 27 at Penn National. Ben’s Cat won the race last year with a career-best dirt Beyer of 100.