07/28/2011 2:00PM

Penn National: Ben's Cat looks tough in Governor's Cup


The lineup for Saturday night’s 38th running of the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National Race Course includes the 2009 winner and a horse who last year was narrowly beaten by eventual Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion Chamberlain Bridge in Penn National Race Course’s most prestigious stakes. But all eyes, and the bulk of the betting public’s wagers, will probably be on Maryland shipper Ben’s Cat.

The five-furlong Governor’s Cup is the fifth-race turf feature on a 10-race card that includes two $100,000 stakes and begins earlier than usual at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

The 9-year-old Cardashi upset the Governor’s Cup at 29-1 odds two years ago. Sneaking Uponyou snuck up to get third as a 15-1 outsider last year, finishing a length behind Chamberlain Bridge.

Despite their accomplishments, Cardashi and Sneaking Uponyou are both 8-1 longshots on the track’s morning line. The favorite, whose price will undoubtedly be much lower than the 3-1 he is listed in the program, is Ben’s Cat, a 5-year-old who has three wins and a second in four previous starts sprinting on turf for his Hall of Fame trainer, King Leatherbury.

Coming from off the pace, Ben’s Cat won the Turf Sprint on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard at Pimlico in May and followed by closing from last of seven to get second, missing by a head, in the $200,000 Parx Dash Handicap. He will be spotting his nine opponents between three and eight pounds as the 119-pound highweight in the Governor’s Cup.

Cardashi was seventh, beaten just 3 1/4 lengths, when he returned to defend his Governor’s Cup title last summer. He tuned up for this year’s race by winning a $25,000 claimer at Penn National, where he is 4 for 6 lifetime.

Sneaking Uponyou returns to turf for the first time since posting solid back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures of 91 and 88 in a pair of sprints at Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park. A 5-year-old trained by Jamie Ness, who is winning at a 33 percent clip this season, Sneaking Uponyou will be making the third start of his current form cycle after two fair efforts over the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs.

Based on their back form in turf sprints, Jr’s Exchange and Awakino Cat merit respect.

Jr’s Exchange won 4 of 5 starts last winter and spring at Tampa Bay Downs, all with Beyers in the narrow range of 90 to 94. He has been off since late April but won first time back from a layoff last December.

Awakino Cat, from the potent turf sprint barn of Linda Rice, owns a 10-for-25 lifetime record, including two wins in minor turf sprint stakes at Saratoga last summer. His recent form has been dull, however, with nothing better than a pair of thirds in four starts this season.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Rice, who grew up in a family that dominated racing at Penn National in the 1970s and 1980s. Her father, Clyde Rice, won multiple titles as a trainer; brothers Curt and Wayne were leading riders; and another brother, Bryan, developed into an outstanding trainer.

Among the longshots, the most intriguing is Towzee. Although 0 for 10 over the last two seasons, the 9-year-old Towzee was beaten less than a length by Chamberlain Bridge in last fall’s $250,000 Turf Monster at Parx and finished 2 1/4 lengths behind Ben’s Cat last time out. He brings along a jockey from Parx, Stewart Elliott, who has won with two of the three mounts he has accepted at Penn National this season.

Another outsider, Local Celebrity, has been first or second in 7 of 9 starts on grass and was two lengths behind Ben’s Cat as the runner-up over soft ground in the Turf Sprint at Pimlico.

◗ Crimson Knight, who picked up small pieces of six-figure purses in his last two starts in the Midwest, rates a slight edge in the Capital City, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds (race 3). Based at Presque Isle Downs with trainer Gerald Bennett, Crimson Knight was a close fourth after setting the pace over yielding ground in the $100,000 Arlington Classic and third of 10 from a stalking position in the $214,000 Oliver at Indiana Downs.

Others with a good shot in the nine-horse field include Live in Joy, who earned a 95 Beyer three starts ago winning a first-level allowance at Arlington; St. Ivan, who missed by a nose with an 85 Beyer in a high-priced optional claimer last time out at Ellis Park; and Kentucky Choice, who stepped up off a maiden win to finish within 2 1/4 lengths of the winner in the nine-furlong Choice at Monmouth Park.

◗ Poseidon’s Warrior, Parent’s Honor, Divine Music, and Isthmus – all coming off dominant victories with Beyers between 93 and 101 – appear difficult to separate among 11 3-year-olds going six furlongs on the main track in the East Hanover (race 7).

Of that group, the two fastest are Poseidon’s Warrior, who cruised home 10 lengths in front in a second-level allowance at Parx while getting a 101 Beyer, and Parent’s Honor, who was awarded a 99 Beyer for his seven-length score facing first-level optional $50,000 claimers at Delaware Park.