The morning line says 4-5, but today’s second race from Pimlico is no easy spot for nine-year-old fan favorite Ben’s Cat to make his seasonal debut.
After scratches, the six-horse field nonetheless includes four other stakes winners, as well as the talented Grateful Nation.
Ben’s Cat has posted four recorded works in preparation for this race, most recently breezing five furlongs in 1:03 flat at his Laurel Park base. He began his season last year with a win in the Mister Diz Stakes, for Maryland-breds, but that race has been moved to Laurel later in the year. In Ben’s Cat’s most recent start, he won the Fabulous Strike on the main track at Penn National in devastating fashion, winning by three lengths whlie earning a career-best 104 Beyer.
The clearest threat to Ben’s Cat, a Parker’s Storm Cat Gelding bred, owned, and trained by Maryland legend King Leatherbury, is Patricia Farro trainee Bold Thunder (4-1). The son of Bold n’ Flashy looms as the controlling speed here. He parlayed his speed to a front-running score three back in the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs, and last September, he finished a neck ahead of Ben’s Cat in the Laurel Dash. Moreover, he holds a likely conditioning edge over the favorite, since he’s already run three times in ’15.
Dylan Smith trainee Grateful Nation ran fifth in that Laurel Dash and has not run since. But he’s been in the money in 10 of 12 tries at the distance with four wins and will be looking to close into the pace.
Service for Ten (12-1), a stakes winner who has earned over $325,000 in his 17-race career, will make his first start since last July. It will also be the first start on the lawn for the Mike Geralis trainee, who likely is prepping for dirt stakes down the road.
2014 Christopher Elser Stakes winner Elevated (20-1) rounds out the field.