12/02/2014 12:26PM

Jerardi: Anything is possible with awe-inspiring veteran Ben’s Cat

B & D Photography
Ben's Cat wins the Fabulous Strike on Saturday at Penn National.

How many soon-to-be 9-year-old horses, after winning 28 races, including 22 stakes, in 44 career starts, could earn their highest Beyer Speed Figure in start No. 45? How many soon-to-be 9-year-old horses could get their biggest margin of victory in more than four years? How many soon-to-be 9-year-old horses could run against a really accomplished group of sprinters last Saturday at Penn National and make every last one of them disappear in the stretch?

The answer to all of those questions is the same horse: Ben’s Cat.

Seriously, how is this possible?

The answer is that with Ben’s Cat, anything is possible.

The horse made his debut May 8, 2010, as a 4-year-old. He won his first eight starts. He could have been claimed for $20,000 and then $25,000.

After winning the Fabulous Strike Handicap for the third consecutive year, with ascending Beyers starting at 100 and then 103 and then an incredible 104 on Saturday, Ben’s Cat has now earned $2,320,990 for owner-trainer-breeder King Leatherbury, whose voice-mail greeting says only “Leatherbury.”

I would suggest “King,” but no matter the greeting, Ben’s Cat is some testament to an amazing career that, like Ben’s Cat, shows no signs of ending.

Ben’s Cat has really made his reputation as a grass sprinter, with five straight wins in the Mister Diz at Pimlico; two wins and two photo losses in the Turf Monster at Parx; three wins and a photo loss in the Parx Dash; and a win, a narrow loss, and an impossible-trip third in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn.

Leatherbury has maintained for years that Ben’s Cat is even better on off tracks. The evidence backs him up. Ben’s Cat is 4 for 5 with a third on off tracks. The third came after a brutal trip in the 2011 Six Bits at Penn, the forerunner to the Fabulous Strike. So, Ben’s Cat really could be working on four straight in the race he just won.

The Beyers suggest he is at his very best at six furlongs on the main track. In eight six-furlong dirt races, Ben’s Cat has won seven, with that bad-trip third at Penn. Three of his five career triple-digit Beyers are at six furlongs on dirt. The hint was his first three starts, all big wins at six furlongs.

By the way, Ben’s Cat’s first two Beyers were 56 and 68. When he needed to start getting bigger figures to win, he did, getting a 91 Beyer in his third career race. Since those first two starts, he has earned a Beyer between 90 and 98 exactly 24 times.

If the “how to manage a horse” book is ever written, Leatherbury’s management of Ben’s Cat needs to get a chapter. Yes, he could have put up the money to supplement Ben’s Cat to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, and, yes, it would have been fun to see how he would have done. But do you think Ben’s Cat would still be this good a month from his ninth birthday if the trainer had not kept putting him in winning spots where he would have to run hard but not so hard that he could not keep running?

What was so fascinating about Ben’s Cat’s win last Saturday was how he did it, sitting casually behind an across-the-track speed duel and then exploding away from the field in the stretch as if the race had just started.

Prior to Ben’s Cat, Leatherbury had never had a $1 million earner in a career built mostly through the claiming box. Ben’s Cat blew by $1 million in 2012 and has earned almost $1 million more over the last two years. So, why not $3 million?

Ben’s Cat needs a mere $679,010 over the next two years. If he adheres to the same schedule and wins at his normal rate, he absolutely will get there.

What if he is slowing down? Watch Race 4 from last Saturday at Penn National. That is your answer.

Has a horse ever gone beyond $3 million in earnings during his 10-year-old season?

I can’t imagine.

But I know one horse who can do it.

Ben’s Cat.

Lydia Williams More than 1 year ago
Truly, a magnificent performance. I haven't been that excited watching a race (live) since my "she's never going to break her maiden" filly won on a cold night at Charles Town just about two years ago. I also voted for Ben in the Vox Populi competition.
Darlene Sanner More than 1 year ago
Ben's Cat has my Vox Populi vote And it is past time for King to be in Hall of Fame That needs to happen in 2015 for sure
Walter More than 1 year ago
Those turf sprints are really tough on horses. Maybe Ben can be a top dirt sprinter in 2015? BC Sprint at Kee?
Laura More than 1 year ago
enjoy your vacation, Ben's Cat, looking forward to 2015! :)
Marilyn More than 1 year ago
Vote for Ben's Cat! http://www.secretariat.com/fan-club/vox-populi-award/
Marlaine Meeker More than 1 year ago
He got my vote!
Steve Krein More than 1 year ago
Mr. Jerardi - Any possibility of having Ben's Cat' lifetime past performances linked to this article so we can view the numbers for ourselves?
Steve Krein More than 1 year ago
This is what you get when you run a horse past his 4 year old season. A proven veteran who knows how to win and who can bring needed fans to the races.
Laura More than 1 year ago
and perhaps starting later helped, too
Lydia Williams More than 1 year ago
Given a choice, I think I'd choose not to have my horse begin his career with a broken pelvis.
Darlene Sanner More than 1 year ago
Ben's Cat didn't start racing until he was 4 He had a broken pelvis when young that took time to heal
Steve Krein More than 1 year ago
I knew he was a late bloomer, but I didn't know those were the circumstances
Gerald Backman More than 1 year ago
Awesome! As Kojak would say "Meow Baby".
Paul Kirnos More than 1 year ago
Awesome horse! Reminds me of another hard-knocking gelding from Maryland trained by Jerry Rob back in the 80's - Little Bold John!
JeAnna Ramirez More than 1 year ago
http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/13728/little-bold-john-succumbs-to-colic-at-21. Excellent article of his accomplishments.
Paul Kirnos More than 1 year ago
Thanks! He even ran in the 1989 Breeders Cup Mile: http://www.breederscup.com/gallery/1989-breeders-cup-mile It would be great to see Ben's Cat in the Breeders Cup - I think he would be competitive in both the sprint or the turf sprint. He deserves it!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Great recall of a fine example of a thoroughbred, all heart!