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Updated on 10/06/2012 6:01PM
Laurel: Ben's Cat ties Maryland Million record with third Turf Sprint win
By Joe DeVivo
Ben’s Cat tied a Jim McKay Maryland Million record by winning the $101,000 Turf Sprint for the third straight year Saturday at Laurel Park.
Toting 128 pounds, the highest weight he has ever carried, the 6-year-old Ben’s Cat ($2.80) got a perfect trip sitting behind dueling leaders Boltin’ Out and Steady Warrior. Ben’s Cat responded when asked by Julian Pimentel and withstood a late charge by the 10-year-old Heros Reward to win by three-quarters of a length. He covered 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.64.
“He is an unbelievable horse,” Pimentel said. “When that horse came to him on the turn he took off again. At the end of the race he felt the other horse coming and he dug in.”
The win moved King Leatherbury ahead of Dale Capuano for the top spot in the Maryland Million trainer standings with 10.
The other horses to win three straight Maryland Million races are Hall of Famer Safely Kept (Distaff, 1989-91), Countus In (Ladies, 1989-91) and Mz. Zill Bear (Ladies, 1993-95).
A son of Parker’s Storm Cat, Ben’s Cat became Leatherbury’s first millionaire with a victory in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing in his previous start. He has won 18 of 27 starts with earnings of $1,216,090.
Also bred and owned by Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat is 11 for 16 on turf and has 13 stakes victories. He had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at age 4 in 2010, then began his career with eight consecutive victories, which included a 4 1/2-length score in the Turf Sprint. He won last year’s Turf Sprint by a length.
Ben’s Cat was conceding 11 to 18 pounds to his eight rivals.
“I was real worried about that 128 pounds,” Leatherbury said. “Right to the end the horse was getting to us from the outside, old Heros Reward. I hope Ben is that good at 10 years old.”
Heros Reward, a multiple graded stakes winner, improved his career earnings to $1,272,898. He finished three-quarters of a length in front of 11-1 shot Colony Club.
In the other Maryland Million undercard races:
* Action Andy ($10.40), cutting back to a six-furlong sprint following three straight turf routes, led wire to wire in the $95,000 Sprint. Ridden by Horatio Karamanos for trainer Carlos Garcia, Action Andy finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Javerre. It was another 6 1/4 lengths back to defending champion Sloane Ranger, the 4-5 favorite.
* Roadhog ($5.40) gave Karamanos back-to-back wins on the program by taking the $100,000 Turf over Change of Command. Roadhog had finished seventh in last year’s Turf, contested over yielding ground.
* The 4-year-old filly Bold Affair ($2.40) coasted to her fourth stakes victory of the season, romping by 13 1/4 lengths in the $100,000 Distaff for fillies and mares going seven furlongs. Abel Castellano Jr. rode the winner for trainer Howard Wolfendale.
* Pagan Priestess ($15.20), ridden by Mike Luzzi, ran down pacesetter Weeper in deep stretch to prevail by a length in the $100,000 Ladies for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
* Classy Coco ($11.20), second in each of her first two career starts, collected her first career win in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Matt Rispoli rode Classy Coco for Penn National-based trainer T. Bernard Houghton.
* Jazzy Idea ($5.20), rebounding from a sixth-place finish in the Charles Town Oaks, easily took the $100,000 Oaks by 6 ¾ lengths for jockey Elvis Trujillo and trainer Edwin Merryman.
* First-time starter Keep Momma Happy ($48.60), ridden by Carlos Marquez Jr., rallied from far back to get up by a neck over Alpha Mike Foxtrot in the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds going six furlongs.
* Motherload Hipster ($4.40) gave Rispoli his second straight win on the card in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap for fillies and mares at one mile.
* Varborough ($6.40), returning to Maryland for the first time since May, won for the fourth time in his last five starts in the $50,000 Starter Handicap at one mile.
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