07/26/2012 1:00PM

Penn National: Ben's Cat out to become millionaire in Pennsylvania Governor's Cup

Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo
Ben's Cat wins the $150,000 Parx Dash at Parx Racing in his last start.

You, too, thought Ben’s Cat was on the other side of midnight? Well, not so fast.

“He came back from those two supbar races and probably ran the best race of his life,” King Leatherbury, the breeder-owner-trainer of Ben’s Cat, said in reference to a two-length victory last month as a 10-1 shot in the $150,000 Parx Dash in Philadelphia. “I think he got a zero on the Thoro-Graph Sheets.”

Now, Ben’s Cat will try to reinforce his re-emergence in the turf-sprint division as one of the favorites Saturday evening in the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, the highlight of the racing year at Penn National in Grantville, Pa. Now a winner in 16 of 24 career starts, Ben’s Cat, a 6-year-old Maryland-bred gelding, could surpass the $1 million earnings mark by winning the five-furlong turf race. He won the Governor’s Cup last year as the 7-5 favorite.

[PENN NATIONAL: Get PPs and watch Saturday's full card live]

Nine other older horses will oppose Ben’s Cat in the Governor’s Cup, the second of three six-figure stakes on a 10-race card that begins at 6 p.m. Eastern. Perhaps his main opposition will come from Varsity, from the ever-dangerous barn of Christophe Clement, and Great Mills, a persistent threat in major Midwest turf sprints for Steve Asmussen.

Leatherbury, who will be on hand Saturday at Penn from his Maryland base, said he was somewhat surprised that Ben’s Cat, a perennial fan favorite, was such a big price in the June 17 Parx Dash, in which he rallied from just off the pace to prevail.

“In his two previous races, he’d gotten into a lot of trouble,” the 79-year-old trainer said. “Usually, a good horse can overcome trouble like that, and I hate to say this about him, but sometimes when he gets knocked around, he just packs it in. Maybe it’s just been a coincidence, I don’t know. Hopefully, we can avoid trouble like that in this race and get us another nice win.”

Julian Pimentel will be aboard Ben’s Cat when they break from post 3.

Varsity (post 5, Kendrick Carmouche) comes off back-to-back wins and looks like the main speed in this dash. The 5-year-old gelding ships in from Belmont Park after winning the June 10 McSorley over the Monmouth Park grass course in his latest out.

Great Mills (post 6, Mike Luzzi) was beaten a nose two starts back by Perfect Officer in a rugged renewal of the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland, then was fourth in a similarly tough running of the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint on the Kentucky Derby undercard. The 4-year-old colt figures as a real danger after working sharply in recent weeks at Saratoga.

Among the viable longshot plays is another Maryland invader, Super Chunky, who was second to Fiddlers Patriot two starts back in a $100,000 turf sprint on Preakness eve at Pimlico and has earned nearly $200,000 for Kenny Cox.

This is the 40th running of the Governor’s Cup, which goes as the fifth race and has a 7:52 post time.