From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Multiple stakes-winning Maryland-bred star will have plenty of company when he goes after his third consecutive victory in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Friday at Pimlico Race Course.
The 10th running of the McKay is the third of seven stakes worth $1.15 million on a 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program that includes the Ultimate Girls Day Out, a celebration of the spirit and strength of women. First race post is noon.
Also on the card are the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3), $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3), $100,000 Hilltop, $100,000 Skipat,
Bred, owned and trained by legendary Mid-Atlantic horseman and Hall of Famer-elect King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat is a three-time winner of the McKay, having captured his first in 2011. All told, the ageless 9-year-old gelding owns 23 stakes victories from 28 wins in 46 lifetime starts, four of them in Grade 3 company, for purses of more than $2.3 million.
“He has been an absolutely remarkable horse. I can’t wait for the race,” Leatherbury, 82, said. “We’re very much looking forward to it. It’s a big day with national interest in that day, so it’s extra special. We’re going to go over there and hopefully knock it off.”
Ben’s Cat capped his 8-year-old season winning the Fabulous Strike Handicap Nov. 29 at Penn National, but was upset as the favorite in a five-furlong turf allowance April 17 at Pimlico. Two of the four horses he faced that day, winner Bold Thunder and Grateful Nation, who was just a neck back in third, return in the McKay.
“It was a situation last time where you had one lone speed in the race and we had to go after him,” Leatherbury said. “We had to make our early run which is not his style, and he just wasn’t as sharp as he’s been for whatever reason. I expect him to be right on Friday.”
Regular rider Julien Pimentel will be back aboard Ben’s Cat from post 3. All 10 horses will carry 118 pounds.
Andrew Sulley’s Bold Thunder is a multiple stakes winner, taking the Turf Dash Jan. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs and the 2014 Silks Run at Gulfstream Park. The 5-year-old son of Bold n’Flashy finished behind Ben’s Cat in the Parx Dash (G3) and Turf Monster (G3) handicaps last summer, but ran second a neck ahead of Ben’s Cat in the Laurel Dash in September.
Pierre Hernandez-Ortega, up in the recent allowance win, gets the return call from post 7.
Previously trained by the late Dickie Small, Grateful Nation was also making his season debut in the Pimlico allowance last month. Now with Dylan Smith, he was a solid fifth in the Laurel Dash and sixth in the John McSorley Stakes, beaten 3 ½ lengths in both, in his recent stakes attempts.
Two-time defending Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano has the mount from post 1.
Car-Den Racing Stable’s Golden Emperor takes a three-race win streak into the McKay, all in five-furlong turf sprints for trainer Mike Rogers over the winter at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s just matured and he’s really turned out to be a nice horse,” Rogers said. “He beat some really nice horses in his last start, and the horse is doing good. He does everything to perfection.”
Golden Emperor, a 5-year-old gelding, tuned up for the McKay with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.70 May 8 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. Jockey Gabe Saez will be in town to ride from post 4.
A winner of five of his last six starts, Golden Emperor is unbeaten since returning Feb. 16 from an injury-forced seven-month layoff. He is making his Pimlico debut but owns wins at Golden Gate Fields and Presque Isle Downs.
“He doesn’t look like the same horse. He really looks good. He’s put on weight and he matured,” Rogers said. “We gave him the time and brought him back and he’s come back even better. That was actually a good thing that he got the time. He’s good.”
Dreamsgonewild ran his win streak to three with a victory in the 2014 Laurel Dash. He’s entered to make his first start since finishing off the board in the Nearctic (G2) at Woodbine in October for owner-trainer Bruce Alexander.
Ashburton Grove, Xmas Sky, Amelia’s Wild Ride, Brewing and Super Chunky round out the field.