09/18/2011 11:27AM

Laurel: Leatherbury seeks sponsor to enable Ben's Cat to run in Breeders' Cup

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
King Leatherbury, in the Laurel Park winner's circle with Ben's Cat, is seeking an investor to put up the $1000,000 it would cost to supplement his horse to the Breeders' Cup.

King Leatherbury wants to play “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Leatherbury, 78, is the breeder, owner, and trainer of Ben’s Cat, a 5-year-old who earned an automatic berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs by winning the Grade 3, $350,000 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing on Sept. 5.

There’s just one problem. Ben’s Cat is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup and it would cost $100,000 to supplement him. So Leatherbury is looking for an investor to put up the fee, someone who shares his optimism that Ben’s Cat can return quick dividends on the investment.

 “I have one guy from California interested,” Leatherbury said. “He would get his $100,000 back if we finished in the top three. We would split whatever is left over. If the horse wins or finishes second everyone is happy.”

 A victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint would be worth $600,000. Second place would be a $200,000 payday. The third-place finisher collects $110,000.

Ben’s Cat has won 12 of 17 starts, including seven stakes. He is expected to make his next start in the $100,000 Maryland Million Turf Sprint at Laurel Park on Oct. 1.

Ben’s Cat had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at age 4, and then began his career with eight consecutive victories.

“He has been a tremendous surprise,” Leatherbury said. “I ran him for $20,000 in his first start but he kept winning and winning and worked his way up the ladder. The last race was his best effort. He is peaking at the right time.”

Ben’s Cat is 3 for 5 on the turf this year, winning the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on Preakness weekend, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National, and the Turf Monster, where he defeated among others defending Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge.

“I have been fortunate to ride a few good horses and I feel like he is better than an average horse,” said regular rider Jeremy Rose, who won the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes aboard Afleet Alex. “He fits well in this race. I have plenty of confidence in him.”

Leatherbury has 6,325 career victories to stand third lifetime among all trainers behind Dale Baird and Jack Van Berg. In his heyday, Leatherbury was one of the “Big Four” of Maryland racing, along with Hall of Famer Buddy Delp, Dick Dutrow, and John Tammaro. He had four consecutive 300-win campaigns in the mid 1970s and was the nation’s leading trainer in 1977 and 1978.

A victory on one of horse racing’s biggest days would help Leatherbury’s quest to gain the one honor that has so far eluded him – a place in racing’s Hall of Fame.

 “It would be a feather in our cap,” said Leatherbury. “Some of the trainers in the Hall of Fame had just one big horse. Buddy Delp had Spectacular Bid and Sonny Hine had Skip Away.”