10/20/2016 12:30PM

Maryland Million Sprint: Is tank near empty for 10-year-old Ben's Cat?

Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat will try to snap the first four-race losing streak of his career in the Maryland Million Sprint.

Ben’s Cat will run in a Maryland Million stakes for the seventh straight year on Saturday at Laurel Park and is the biggest name on the 11-race card. But at age 10, Ben’s Cat is in the midst of the first four-race losing streak of his career, and it is hard not to wonder if this might be his final go-round.

Nobody knows Ben’s Cat better than Hall of Famer King Leatherbury, who bred, owns, and trains the winner of 32 of 59 starts and more than $2.6 million. Even Leatherbury has recently questioned whether time is catching up with his star performer.

“The big problem I have is he’s not coming back to the good numbers that he ran last year,” Leatherbury said. “He has yet to run one of his good numbers this year.”

Ben’s Cat will be a top choice in the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint despite drawing the inside post in the six-horse field.

Ben’s Cat started the year with wins in a no-conditions allowance and the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. He then finished third in three stakes, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, the Grade 3 Parx Dash, and the Mister Diz against Maryland-breds. Last time out, he faded to fifth in the $100,000 Laurel Dash.

Leatherbury worked Ben’s Cat five furlongs last Saturday. He was given a time of 1:05 for the move, but he worked in the dark, and the time of the drill has been questioned.

:: LAUREL PARK: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s card live

Trevor McCarthy, who was aboard, was impressed by how Ben’s Cat went.

“It was definitely one of his best works all year,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t matter about the time, I would say, just the way he did it. He turned off for me and then finished a little bit, and it was just the way he felt. I’m real excited about him.”

Ben’s Cat won the Maryland Million Turf Sprint each year from 2010 to 2012 before the race was discontinued. Leatherbury ran him in the Turf at a mile in 2013 and 2014, but the distance was a bit too long, and he finished second each year. Last season, Ben’s Cat dropped a nose decision to Jack’s in the Deck in the Sprint after a long stretch run.

Leatherbury nominated Ben’s Cat to both the Turf and the Sprint, but on the morning of the Wednesday draw, he settled on the Sprint.

“I wanted to give him one more time on turf, but this race came up with six horses,” Leatherbury said.

◗ Ladies: Trainer Dale Capuano and owner Charles Reed claimed Monster Sleeping for $35,000 in March 2013. She has since won eight races and the $125,000 Maryland Million Ladies twice, in 2013 and 2015.

Although Monster Sleeping comes into Saturday’s race following two off-the-board showings, she is a contender in the wide-open field of eight. The Ladies will be run at 1 1/8 miles on grass.

“We just want fast turf for her,” Reed said.

Capuano is the all-time winningest Maryland Million trainer with 11 victories, one more than Leatherbury.

◗ Distaff: Lovable Lady comes into the $100,000 Distaff off three consecutive victories at six furlongs. Although she is 0 for 2 at the seven furlongs of the Distaff, she was narrowly beaten in both of those races and figures to be a solid favorite in the field of 11.

Conditioned by Mary Eppler, who as of Friday morning was tied for leading trainer at the Laurel meet with Gary Capuano, Lovable Lady will break from the outside post under Horacio Karamanos, who has ridden her in 12 straight races.

◗ Nursery: Greatbullsoffire is the only stakes winner in the $100,000 Nursery, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds. He won his career debut by a neck on turf for trainer Hamilton Smith in July and then shipped to Delaware Park, where he won the Strike Your Colors Stakes on dirt by 2 1/2 lengths. He was third last out on turf in the Laurel Futurity.

“He had a super work with an older horse last week,” Smith said. “I laid him off the other horse three or four lengths, and he went by him pretty easy.”

In Arrears, trained by Wayne Potts, won a maiden race by four lengths Sept. 30 and is a serious contender.

◗ Lassie: Diamond Dollar will try to transfer her synthetic-track form to dirt in the $100,000 Lassie, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies. Diamond Dollar made five starts at the recently concluded Presque Isle Downs meet, winning a maiden race and defeating males in the Pennsylvania-bred Mark McDermott Stakes for trainer Ron Potts Jr.

Misty On Pointe would also be a player for trainer Horacio DePaz, but she is on the also-eligible list.