Updated on 04/29/2011 7:02AM

Pimlico: Ben's Cat back on turf in Henry Clark Stakes

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ben's Cat, on the rail under Julian Pimentel, will be back on turf for the first time since winning the Find last October in Saturday's Henry Clark.

After watching his versatile Ben’s Cat come from off the pace to take the Mister Diz Stakes while sprinting on dirt three weeks ago, Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury said he thought the 5-year-old gelding might be even better running on turf, where he is unbeaten in three starts. Leatherbury will find out for certain when Ben’s Cat faces Grade 3 winner Baletti and four other well-accomplished but perhaps rusty turf runners in Saturday’s $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico.

The Clark, scheduled for one mile on the grass, drew a field of 11 older horses, including the coupled entry of Paris Vegas and Followmyfootsteps.

Ben’s Cat will be returning to turf for the first time since taking the 1 1/8-mile Find Handicap last October. His second win in the off-the-turf Mister Diz snapped a three-race losing streak after Ben’s Cat began his injury-delayed career by reeling off eight consecutive victories.

“I really didn’t want to stretch him out. I’d rather keep him sprinting but he’s in good form,” said Leatherbury, who ranks third on the all-time wins list with 6,316 victories. “There has never been a race where I was very comfortable about winning, so just about every time he reaches the wire first it is a surprise.”

Leatherbury indicated Ben’s Cat is likely to run in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the Black-Eyed Susan card at Pimlico on May 20.

The 7-year-old Baletti began his winter campaign in Florida by finishing third, beaten less than one length, in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap and ended it in early March when he was claimed for $62,500 out of a winning effort. Winner of the Grade 3 Fort Marcy last May, Baletti will be making his first start for the high-percentage barn of Mike Pino.

It’s also a favorable sign that Baletti is 3 for 3 at the one-mile distance of the Clark.

Pocket Patch, Lonely Whistle, Safety Valve, and Followmyfootsteps all finished first or second on turf last time out. But all four will be making their 20011 debuts after taking off between five and six months.

Of that group, the most likely to run big first time off the bench are the Tom Voss-trained Followmyfootsteps and the Rodney Jenkins-trained Safety Valve.

Voss shows a 12-for-48 record (25 percent) the last two years with turf runners returning from a break of between 61 and 180 days. Jenkins is 8 for 28 (29 percent) in that same category.

Followmyfootsteps, who began his career in Ireland, has been off since missing by a head in an overnight stakes at Aqueduct in late November.

Safety Valve steps up to stakes company for the first time since the 2009 Virginia Derby, following back-to-back wins in high-priced optional claimers last season, one at Delaware Park and the other at Laurel.