11/21/2011 12:26PM

Penn National: Ben's Cat takes his show to the dirt in Six Bits

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ben's Cat won the Laurel Dash on a sloppy track (above) and could get another off track in the Six Bits.

The Maryland-based gelding Ben’s Cat has already made one successful excursion to Penn National Race Course this season, so he’s returning to familiar surroundings as the headliner in Wednesday’s inaugural running of the $200,000 Six Bits Handicap.

He is, however, a stranger to Penn National’s main track.

Best known for his prowess as a turf sprinter, Ben’s Cat won the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap going five furlongs on grass as the 7-5 favorite in late July. He will be making a rare appearance on dirt in the six-furlong Two Bits, the richest of four stakes on the Thanksgiving Eve card, which begins at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The Two Bits, which drew a field of eight, goes as race 3 as the second of four straight stakes on the program.

The likelihood of a wet track should not bother Ben’s Cat, a 5-year-old owned and trained by King Leatherbury. In his only two appearances on the main track this season, Ben’s Cat won the five-furlong Mister Diz over a surface rated good and most recently scored by two lengths over a sloppy surface at Laurel Park in the six-furlong Laurel Dash.

His most dangerous rival could be the 3-year-old J J’s Lucky Train, who returns to a sprint after two unsuccessful tries going long over the summer. His two best races this year both came early in the season when J J’s Lucky Train won back-to-back starts going seven furlongs in the Miracle Wood at Laurel and the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct. Idle since finishing sixth in the mile and 70-yard Smarty Jones – a race that produced four next-out winners – J J’s Lucky Train was scheduled to make his comeback earlier this month in the Bold Ruler Handicap at Aqueduct, but was scratched from that spot on Nov. 6. He has not raced as short as six furlongs since October of his 2-year-old campaign.

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The field also includes three horses from last month’s Frank De Francis Dash – runner-up Immortal Eyes, third-place Sloane Ranger, and eighth-place Ravalo. Most of Immortal Eyes’s best efforts have come in 4 1/2-furlong sprints at Charles Town, although he led until deep stretch of the six-furlong Dash, missing by a half-length while earning a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He also shows a stakes win this season over a sloppy track.

Ravalo, second in the 2009 Dash when it was a Grade 1 race, was dull last time out, but three starts ago, he won the $200,000 Remington Sprint Cup with a 98 Beyer. Racing on wet tracks, the 7-year-old Ravalo has been no worse than second in 7 of 9 outings.

Sloane Ranger has not been worse than third in his last three starts, highlighted by a win in the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint Handicap. His 97 Beyer for his two-length defeat in the Dash was a career best.

In the other stakes:

◗ Redding Colliery, winner of the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in October 2010, will make his first start since he was elevated to second in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap 12 months ago in the $75,000 Swatara at 1 1/16 miles (race 4). His 10 opponents include Shadowbdancing, winner of the Mountaineer Mile three weeks ago, and the 3-year-old Norman Asbjornson, second in the Grade 3 Gotham this past March.

◗ Poseidon’s Warrior, who has posted four Beyers between 99 and 101 in his last five starts, will vie for favoritism with Royal Currier, who beat him in the $250,000 Gallant Bob two months ago, in the $75,000 La Bagoter for 3-year-olds going six furlongs (race 5).

◗ Pink Candy, a dominant winner of a South Carolina Residency restricted stakes at Parx on Nov. 13, comes back quickly looking for her fourth win of the season in the $75,000 Blue Mountain for Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs (race 2). Her 11 opponents include recent debut winner Seductora; Dancing Anna, winner of the Miss Shenandoah at Charles Town and runner-up in the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont Park; and Love Contract, who steps up in class following back-to-back wins over claimers by a combined 12 3/4 lengths.