05/15/2013 11:48AM

Pimlico: Ben's Cat looks to pad rich resume in Jim McKay Turf Sprint

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Ben's Cat will take aim at his 21st career victory in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint.

BALTIMORE – The success in recent years of Ben’s Cat has focused renewed, deserved attention on the great career of trainer King Leatherbury, a Maryland legend who is still going strong long after the glory days here when he faced off regularly with Bud Delp, Dick Dutrow, and John Tammaro.

Ben’s Cat has earned more than $1.4 million, and has won 20 of 30 starts, with turf sprints his specialty. Ben’s Cat will try to add to those totals on Friday at Pimlico, when he heads the field in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint over five furlongs.

According to Leatherbury, who both owns and trains Ben’s Cat, the 7-year-old gelding is getting better and better.

“He’s much more of a tiger in his training now than he was when he was 4 or 5,” Leatherbury said Wednesday morning. “He’s more aggressive. He’s a very intelligent horse. When he’s galloping, if another horse is in front of him, he’ll gallop like he knows he has to beat that horse. When nobody’s out there, he’ll just prick his ears and go along.”

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Ben’s Cat returned from a 4 1/2-month layoff last month to win the Mister Diz at Pimlico for the fourth straight year.

In addition to Ben’s Cat, Leatherbury will send out Ken’s Cape, a winner over this course last year. When it comes to the eight-horse McKay, it’s good to be the King.

The biggest challenger to Leatherbury’s duo could be Bridgetown, who is making his first start since a disappointing effort in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He has a history of running very well fresh.

Other top contenders include Night Officer, second to Ben’s Cat in the Mister Diz, and Spring to the Sky, a winner of his lone attempt in a turf sprint.