03/19/2016 6:14PM

Sonny Inspired retains sharp form in Ben's Cat Stakes

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
After winning the six-furlong Ben's Cat under Jevian Toledo, Sonny Inspired may try the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic.

The 5-year-old Sonny Inspired won his second stakes of the year, and the second of his career, in the inaugural Ben's Cat Stakes at Laurel Park on Saturday.

Sonny Inspired was one of three horses in the seven-horse field of Maryland-breds trained by Phil Schoenthal. He paid $4 as the favorite. Any Court Inastorm, trained by Jason Egan, was up in deep stretch to take second by a head over Gursky, who is trained by Schoenthal.

Schoenthal and Egan are neighbors on the Laurel Park backstretch. The Barn 21 trifecta returned $32.50 for a dollar. Schoenthal's third runner, Arrogant Officer, finished fifth.

Sonny Inspired was purchased for $20,000 by owner Matt Dorman at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale at Timonium in 2012. He is now 6 for 29 with earnings of $361,324, and in the best form of his career.

Sonny Inspired has been a challenge for Schoenthal because of his habit of waiting on horses after he makes the lead. He has finished second six times and third seven times over the years.

Schoenthal tweaked Sonny Inspired's blinkers three starts back and the result has been a win in the open Fire Plug Stakes, a third in the Grade 3 General George, and a victory in the Ben's Cat. The more severe closed-cup blinkers appear to have gotten Sonny Inspired's attention.

In the six-furlong Ben's Cat, Sonny Inspired broke alertly but was allowed to settle off the pace by jockey Jevian Toledo as D C Dancer set the pace over the “good” track while being pressed by Jack's in the Deck and Gursky. The quarter-mile went in 23.07 seconds and the half in 46.41.

Gursky put away his pace rivals by upper stretch but Sonny Inspired was rolling at that point and went by from the outside in midstretch to win by a length. He covered  six furlongs in 1:11.23.

"I was a little surprised when they all stacked up like that on the front end," Schoenthal said. "I thought Gursky was going to go to the lead because that was our plan. Sonny was closer than we thought."

D C Dancer and Jack's in the Deck tired to finish sixth and seventh, respectively.

Schoenthal said the Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day, May 21, is possible for Sonny Inspired, but indicated he would first consider stretching Sonny Inspired out in distance in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic on April 23. The Charles Town Classic is 1 1/8 miles around three turns. Sonny Inspired has not raced beyond a mile since June 2014.

"It will be fun running for a million dollars," Schoenthal said. "And if we run third or fourth we could make a lot of money."

King Leatherbury, the owner, breeder, and trainer of Ben's Cat, was on hand to present the winner's trophy. Ben's Cat, now 10, has rejoined Leatherbury's barn following his normal winter farm vacation, and had his first work of the year on Thursday.

Leatherbury is pointing Ben's Cat, an earner of slightly less than $2.5 million, to the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on Black-Eyed Susan Day, with a possible prep race first.