From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Owner-trainer King Leatherbury has decided to run Ben’s Cat in the $100,000 Laurel Dash in tomorrow’s Fall Festival of Racing card at Laurel Park instead of the headline race on the 11-race card, the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash. Leatherbury cross-entered his star pupil into both race when entries were taken Wednesday afternoon. He made his decision after handicapping the two races.

“Turf it is,” Leatherbury said Friday afternoon. “It is too easy a spot.”

Maryland Jockey Club handicapper Keith Feustle has established the Leatherbury homebred as the 4-5 favorite in the 6-furlong turf test, a race he won two years ago. The son of Parker’s Storm Cat, who became Leatherbury’s first millionaire last year, has won 22-of-34 starts with 17 stakes scores for earnings of $1,635,640. He has 14 victories (all stakes) in 22 turf starts.

In the De Francis Dash, a 6-furlong race on the main track, Ben’s Cat was the 9-2 second choice in the morning line behind Sage Valley (9-5). The race also includes high-level sprinters Saturday’s Charm (5-1), Brigand (6-1), Il Villano (6-1), Immortal Eyes (8-1) and Service for Ten (10-1).

“There are two or three horses in the De Francis that could beat me,” added Leatherbury, who ranks fifth on the all-time win list with 6,400 career victories. “Of course, I could beat them, too. If I had to run there, I would but the other race would be like turning money down that you found on the ground.”

Now seven, Ben’s Cat had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at age four in 2010, then began his career with eight consecutive victories. He has three graded stakes victories on his resume, all on the grass, and is 5-for-6 on the Laurel Park turf with his only loss coming in the 2012 Laurel Dash.

“He has been a dream horse, something that comes around just once in a lifetime,” Leatherbury said.

The 80-year-old has conditioned two Grade 1 winners: Catatonic (1987 Hempstead Stakes) and Taking Risks (1994 Iselin Handicap), saddled four Preakness runners and other graded winners such as Ameri Valay, Learned Jake, Dynamic Trick and Ah Day.

Julian Pimentel has the riding assignment. He has been aboard Ben’s Cat 22 times with 14 victories.


Shug McGaughey has sent just 34 starters to Laurel Park during his Hall of Fame career, according to Equibase. On Saturday, he will ship a pair of live runners to the central Maryland track.

Abaco is the 7-2 morning line favorite in the $100,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes for fillies and mares. The daughter of Giant’s Causeway has finished in the money 11 times in 15 career races. Although she is winless this year, she reeled off four consecutive victories last fall to end her 4-year-old campaign.

In the $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup, McGaughey has entered Tricky Hat, the 9-2 third choice in a race that is expected to have a full field of 14. The son of Hat Trick comes into the race off a victory at Saratoga last month.

Former Maryland riding star Rosie Napravnik will ride both McGaughey runners. She has mounts in all seven stakes races on the program.

(Featured image by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.)