Ben's Cat. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Ben’s Cat. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame release

King Leatherbury, the legendary Maryland-based trainer who ranks fourth all-time with 6,449 wins, is one of 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s 2015 ballots.  Four of those 10 will enter the Hall.

For Leatherbury, it marks the first time he has made it to be among the finalists.

King Leatherbury and the star of the show, Ben's Cat. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

King Leatherbury and the star of the show, Ben’s Cat. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

The other finalists are jockeys Chris Antley, Victor Espinoza, Corey Nakatani and Craig Perret; Thoroughbreds Black Tie Affair, Kona Gold, Lava Man and Xtra Heat; and trainer David Whiteley.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 14-member Nominating Committee from a total of 68 initial candidates suggested by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years, while jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Thoroughbreds are required to be retired for five calendar years before becoming eligible. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, but a five-year waiting period is then observed before they become eligible. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review process.

The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on Monday, April 20. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Aug. 7 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Leatherbury, 81, won his first race at Florida’s Sunshine Park in 1959. He has won 52 training titles in Maryland (26 each at Pimlico and Laurel) and four at Delaware Park and has career purse earnings of $62,792,375. Leatherbury led all North American trainers in wins in 1977 and 1978 and won 300 or more races each year from 1975 through 1978. He ranked in the top three in North American wins each year from 1975 through 1980 and has finished in the top 10 nationally in wins 18 times and in earnings four times. Leatherbury has won 23 graded stakes races and 153 overall stakes.

In 1987, Leatherbury won the Grade 1 Hempstead Handicap with Catatonic and in 1994 he won the Grade 1 Philip H. Iselin Handicap with Taking Risks, a horse he had claimed. Leatherbury also bred, owns and trains Ben’s Cat, a winner of $2.3 million. Ben’s Cat has won 22 stakes to date, including four graded events. Other top winners trained by Leatherbury include Ah Day (winner of 10 stakes) and Thirty Eight Paces (winner of six stakes). Leatherbury’s graded wins include multiple editions of the Parx Dash, Turf Monster Handicap, Laurel Turf Cup and John B. Campbell Handicap. He has also won the Toboggan, Gardenia, Tempted, Woodlawn and Allegheny stakes and the Snow Goose, Betsy Ross, Roseben, Assault and Roseben handicaps.


Though Leatherbury’s stable has shrunk from its heights — he won 100 or more races 26 consecutive years, beginning in 1972 — he has remained in the spotlight with a serious of accomplished runners in recent years.  Those include Malibu Moonshine, who won three sophomore stakes in 2005 and finished eighth in that year’s Preakness Stakes; Ah Day, winner of over $900,000; and the redoubtable Ben’s Cat, recently named Maryland-bred Horse of the Year for the fourth consecutive time, as well as the top Midlantic-bred in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred/The Racing Biz Top Midlantic-bred Poll.

Ah Day and Ben’s Cat are both homebreds for Leatherbury, and both were out of mares sired by Thirty Eight Paces (Endette and Twfox,respectively).

Also among the finalists is Xtra Heat, one of the most popular Maryland-based horses in recent years and a previous Hall of Fame finalist.  The daughter of Dixieland Heat was trained by John Salzman, Sr. and owned by him in partnership with Kenny Taylor and Harry Deitchman.  The trio bought her out of the Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Olds In Training sale at Timonium for just $5,000.  She debuted in $25,000 maiden claiming company, winning by a neck after a slow start — and then raced in 34 consecutive stakes to the end of her career.

Xtra Heat bursts through the fog to win the Fritchie.  Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Xtra Heat bursts through the fog to win the Fritchie. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

The Eclipse Award winner for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2001, Xtra Heat compiled a career record of 26-5-2 from 35 starts and earnings of $2,389,635. Xtra Heat won a total of 25 stakes races, 10 of which were graded events. She registered two six-race win streaks and had two victories in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap and Grade 3 Endine Stakes. Xtra Heat’s wins included the Grade 1 Prioress (setting a stakes record of 1:08.26), as well as the Vagrancy and Genuine Risk handicaps and the Astarita and Beaumont stakes.

She finished second a half-length to Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and third in that year’s Grade 1 De Francis Dash, both against the boys.  She finished ahead of fellow finalist Kona Gold in both those races.  She also finished third in the ’02 Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.