10/04/2012 1:13PM

Laurel: Ben’s Cat fighting weighty task in Maryland Million Turf Sprint

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Alyssa Spakowski/Equi-Photo
Ben’s Cat, 4 for 4 on Laurel’s turf, is coming off the 12th stakes victory of his career, the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx.

The millionaire Ben’s Cat towers over his nine rivals on class in the $100,000 Maryland Millon Turf Sprint Handicap, a race he has won each of the past two years. But will he be toppled over by the weight he must concede?

The Turf Sprint is the leading race on the undercard of the 27th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million on Saturday at Laurel Park. The 11-race program devoted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions will offer a collective $1.05 million in purses.

The 128 pounds Ben’s Cat has been assigned is not only the highest he has carried in his 26-race career, he must spot his challengers anywhere between 11 and 18 pounds.

“He’s the best horse, but I’m not happy with that kind of weight,” owner-trainer King Leatherbury said. “He’s maintained his class and is doing fine.”

Ben’s Cat, 4 for 4 on Laurel’s turf, is coming off the 12th stakes victory of his career, a head decision in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx.

Among those willing to take a shot at Ben’s Cat is trainer Gary Capuano, who will send out the 10-year-old millionaire Heros Reward. He has been off since July and was fifth behind Ben’s Cat in the Mister Diz at Pimlico in early April.

“Maybe Ben won’t run his race this time,” said Capuano, who then praised his own horse, who has 15 career victories and $1.2 million in earnings, roughly $92,000 more than Ben’s Cat. “He is fresh and sound. He shows up every time, and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

The field also includes the 4-year-old Steady Warrior, who was beaten a length by Ben’s Cat in last year’s Turf Sprint and finished only a neck behind the Turf Sprint favorite in the Mister Diz. Although competitive in those two events, Steady Warrior is mired in a 12-race losing streak and hasn’t won since taking the Tri-State Futurity in November 2010 at Charles Town.

In the other undercard races:

◗ Defending champion Sloane Ranger, winner of the $150,000 Donald LeVine at Parx and beaten only 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup going a mile, looks formidable in the $100,000 Sprint (race 9). His eight rivals include Regal Solo, the 2010 Classic winner who was second in last year’s Sprint, and multiple stakes winner Action Andy.

◗ Target Sighted, the 2009 winner who has run just three times since July 2010, and Roadhog, who comes off a nose defeat in a stakes restricted to Pennsylvania-breds, are among the contenders in a 12-horse field for the $100,000 Turf (race 9).

◗ D C Dancer and Lunar Rock, who earned similar Beyer Speed Figures for recent maiden victories, top a field of 12 2-year-olds in the $100,000 Nursery (race 7).

◗ Mystic Love, a fast maiden winner sprinting on turf in her career debut, will try to transfer her form to dirt in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies (race 1).

◗ Baltimore Belle, second as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite last year, and Daydreamin Gracie, third in the All Brandy last time out, are prime contenders in the $100,000 Ladies for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles on turf (race 3).

◗ Multiple stakes winner Bold Affair, last year’s Distaff runner-up Silver Heart, and 2011 Oaks winner Brushed by Love top a field of seven fillies and mares going seven furlongs in the $100,000 Distaff (race 4)

◗ Spring Dance, an easy winner of her first two career starts sprinting, and Jazzy Idea, who set a turf course record winning the Jameela on opening day of the fall meet, will clash in the $100,000 Oaks for 3-year-old fillies going a mile (race 5).

◗ Motherload Hipster, easy winner of a second-level optional $35,000 claimer last time out, and Franstein, who trounced two rivals in a second-level optional $35,000 claimer two races ago, may have a class advantage in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap (race 2).

◗ Varborough, a winner in 3 of his last 4 starts, and Gully, idle since winning back-to-back starts at Parx in July and August, bring sharp form into the $50,000 Starter Handicap at one mile (race 11).