05/20/2011 2:51PM

Pimlico: Ben's Cat takes McKay for King Leatherbury

Barbara D. Livingston
Ben's Cat wins the McKay Turf Sprint under Jeremy Rose.

BALTIMORE – Though Ben’s Cat has shown equal prowess on turf and dirt, trainer King Leatherbury firmly believes his 5-year-old Maryland-bred gelding’s best game is as a closing sprinter on the grass.

The 78-year-old trainer, who ranks third all-time in wins, was proven correct yet again as Ben’s Cat rallied from last in a scratched-reduced field of five to win the $65,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint by two lengths Friday at Pimlico. Local Celebrity finished second, two lengths in front of Super Chunky. Southern Region and Blue Sailor, the 6-5 favorite, completed the order of finish.

Ben’s Cat won for the 10th time from 14 starts and is now 3 for 3 in turf sprints. He is now 4 for 5 on turf to go along with his 6-for-9 record on dirt.

“This is his game, closing sprinter” said Leatherbury, who notched career win 6,318 in the Jim McKay. “He’s won nice races on the dirt, but when you get right down to it, if I have to choose it’s going to be a turf sprint.”

Leatherbury said he was a little concerned when Ben’s Cat dropped back to last after a half-mile behind Southern Region, who under Robby Albarado was loose on the lead through a half-mile in 47.00 seconds. But when jockey Jeremy Rose swung Ben’s Cat to the outside for the stretch, he powered home an emphatic winner. Ben’s Cat covered five furlongs in 59.71 seconds over yielding turf and returned $5.60.

“Good horses overcome their jockeys, conditions everything,” Rose said. “I thought I had him too far back, but the first part he didn’t want to be rushed. I asked him to run and he just wasn’t into it yet. I said 'well, you live by your horse.' I had to sit there and wait, top of the lane I got him outside, tapped him a couple of times and that was it, game was over.”

Added Leatherbury: “I thought he would win but that was an impressive win. He’s done that a couple of times where he’s just fired in that stretch and he’s just rolled on by; that’s beautiful when you see that and its very thrilling.”