Ben’s Cat headlines Penn Mile undercard
Ben’s Cat wins the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Frank Vespe
If Father Time is going to run down Ben’s Cat — and he eventually does catch up to all of us — it’s apparently not quite yet.
The 10-year-old Parker’s Storm Cat gelding surged late to win the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint two weeks ago at Pimlico, and he has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National, one of three stakes supporting the Grade 3 Penn Mile. It will go as race two with a post time of 6:35.
The McKay victory was Ben’s Cat’s fourth consecutive triumph in that race and fifth in the last six years. He earned a Beyer speed figure of 101 for the win, marking the fifth consecutive year he has registered at least one triple-digit Beyer. Bred, owned, and trained by King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat now has 32 wins from 55 career starts, with earnings of nearly $2.6 million.
If there’s bad news for Ben’s Cat, who will have Trevor McCarthy in the irons, it’s that he’s a horse who likes to have something to chase and this is a race light on early speed types.
The likely speed here will be Alan Goldberg trainee Pool Winner (part of entry, 5-1), who has been first or second in all 10 of his turf sprints. The Broken Vow gelding made his first start of the season with a head score over allowance/optional claiming types at Laurel, and one of three to run back has won. Look for jockey Joel Rosario to try to get to the front and take the field as far as he can.
Another runner who has, at times, shown speed but figures more likely to stalk here is Spring to the Sky (3-1). The Bruce Brown-trained Langfuhr gelding — another old-timer at age seven — has earned more than $400,000 sprinting on the lawn and narrowly missed defeating Ben’s Cat in the McKay, finishing second by a neck. It was the second time that pair had run one-two in the event. Mike Luzzi will ride.
Cyclogenisis (4-1) began his career like he would go on to big things, winning at first asking and following that up with an easy win in the 2014 Laurel Futurity. But he’s made just four starts since — none since October 2015 — with only a single win. He ran well despite traffic troubles when fourth in the Quick Call at Saratoga last August but then was last as the favorite in the Grade 1 Nearctic at Woodbine. Javier Castellano will ride the George Weaver trainee in his first start of 2016.
In the day’s lid-lifter, the $200,000 Penn Oaks, Pricedtoperfection is the 9-5 favorite on the strength of her win in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream in January. But that race didn’t produce a single next-out winner from 10 to run back, and you have good reason to look elsewhere rather than taking short odds on a horse whose overall credentials are similar to many in here — even if she is trained by Chad Brown.
For example, Todd Pletcher trainee Sweet Victory (5-2) took the $75,000 Honey Ryder at Gulfstream last out and has won three of five career starts. Conquest Serenade (9-2), trained by Mark Casse, has won two of three and makes her first start on the grass — a surface on which half-sister Millennia won a stake and over $260,000. And perhaps most interesting of all, Jonathan Sheppard trainee Outsider Art (6-1) ran poorly last out, in the Grade 3 Edgewood, but one race prior gave a stellar effort when third, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, behind Catch a Glimpse — favored in the Grade 3 Penn Mile against the boys — in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland.
Just five runners are scheduled to face the starter in the $200,000 Mountainview Handicap for three-year-olds and up in race three (post time 7:05). Pletcher’s Red Rifle (8-5) is favored despite not having run on conventional dirt in over a year or won on it since 2014. Top rivals here include Mike Maker trainee S’maverlous (2-1), who won the Grade 2 New Orleans before running fifth in the Charles Town Classic; and Shug McGaughey’s improving son of Curlin, Top Billing (3-1). And if it rains, give a look to Edge of Reality (5-1), who’s won four of seven starts on off tracks.
An all-stakes pick four begins with the evening’s first race.