10/14/2015 2:56PM

Leatherbury opts to run Ben's Cat in Maryland Million Sprint this year

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ben's Cat will run in the Maryland Million Sprint on Saturday at Laurel Park.

In the two years since the Maryland Million Turf Sprint was done away with at Laurel Park, trainer King Leatherbury has cross-entered Ben’s Cat in both the Turf and the Sprint, handicapped the races, and then opted for the Turf.

Leatherbury has changed it up for Saturday’s Maryland Million card, which will include seven restricted stakes worth a combined $800,000. On Wednesday morning, Leatherbury said he had only entered Ben’s Cat in the Sprint.

“The Turf has been an easier spot, but it’s farther than he wants to go, and the true routers have grabbed me the last two years and beat him,” Leatherbury said.

After winning the Turf Sprint three straight times (2010-12), Ben’s Cat finished second, beaten a neck by Roadhog, in the 2013 Turf. Last year, Talk Show Man ran down Ben’s Cat to win by a half-length.

The six-furlong sprint will be run on the main track. Although Ben’s Cat has earned the bulk of his $2.4 million on turf, he is 11 for 15 on dirt, with earnings of $651,630.

:: Maryland Million Day: Get free PPs, watch Saturday’s card live

Ben’s Cat has won his four most recent main-track starts. He won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint when it was moved to dirt at Pimlico in May 2014 and the Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National in each of the last three Novembers.

“That was one of his best races last year,” Leatherbury said of the Fabulous Strike. “I don’t know why, but he just steps up in that race late in the year.”

Ben’s Cat has not had a workout since finishing fifth, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing on Sept. 7, but Leatherbury said Ben’s Cat is “acting good, feeling good, and training super.”

Leatherbury said he had intended to work Ben’s Cat last weekend but that he canceled it after a storm came through.

“It’s a horrible shame, but he’ll have to go without his blowout,” Leatherbury said. “It’s not perfect, but it isn’t a killer either.”

Ben’s Cat, 9, is 30 for 51 in his career. Leatherbury is the fourth-winningest trainer in North American history with 6,462 victories through Tuesday. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga in August.