10/27/2011 11:29AM

Laurel Park: Ben's Cat stays home for Laurel Dash

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat skipped a possible start in the Breeders' Cup and instead head's Saturday's Laurel Dash.

Instead of packing their bags and heading to Churchill Downs in quest of the $1 million jackpot up for grabs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, trainer King Leatherbury and his star 5-year-old Ben’s Cat will be staying home to shoot for a consolation prize in the $75,000 Laurel Dash on Saturday at Laurel Park.

Leatherbury, 78, had hoped to find investors to pay the $100,000 supplemental fee necessary to get Ben’s Cat into next weekend’s Breeders’ Cup. But when that dream didn’t materialize, he had to settle for a much smaller purse at his home track.

“I am a little disappointed not to be able to go down to Churchill, it would have been fun,” Leatherbury said. “They told me there was an opportunity to supplement for $25,000 earlier this year. I was unaware of that, but in the spring I wasn’t sure he was good enough. He has improved a great deal this summer and would have certainly been a contender in the Breeders’ Cup.”

Ben’s Cat will instead run against 11 opponents in Saturday’s Dash on Laurel’s turf course.

“This is a six-furlong turf race in our backyard,” said Leatherbury, whose 6,330 career victories stand third lifetime among all trainers behind Dale Baird and Jack Van Berg. “All we have to do is walk him out of the stall. Somebody said to me during this process that I didn’t win 6,000 races by picking the toughest spots each time.”

Ben’s Cat, 4 for 4 on the grass at Laurel and 7 for 9 overall on turf, looks like a solid favorite in the Dash. He has posted five consecutive Beyer Speed Figures in the narrow range between 92 and 95, including his wins in the Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx Racing and the $100,000 Maryland Million Turf Sprint on Oct. 1.

His most intriguing challenger Saturday is Royal Currier, a 3-year-old who comes off a career-best 109 Beyer for his dominant victory in last month’s $250,000 Gallant Bob at Parx Racing. That was on dirt, however, and Royal Currier’s lone win in three tries on turf produced a modest 81 Beyer.

The field also includes the 3-year-old Steady Warrior, who gave up the lead in deep stretch and wound up a length behind Ben’s Cat in the Maryland Million; Super Chunky, who steps up in class off a three-length score worth a career-best 93 Beyer in a turf sprint at Laurel on Sept. 22; and multiple stakes winner Pocket Patch, winner of the Maryland Million Turf three weeks ago going 1 1/8 miles.