“Empty” Ben’s Cat ninth as Phlash Phelps takes Mister Diz
by Frank Vespe
A day that began with optimism for Team Ben’s Cat concluded with a disappointing ninth-place finish in this afternoon’s $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes for Maryland-breds three and up.
Now a race Ben’s Cat once owned looks to be beyond him, bringing his connections — specifically, breeder-owner-trainer King T. Leatherbury — yet another step closer a decision they’d prefer not to make.
“He’s feeling good this morning,” Leatherbury said during this morning’s Off to the Races on the Racing Biz Radio Network. “Everybody thinks he’s going to run well today.”
But, the octogenarian trainer allowed, “He’s certainly reaching the stage where, he doesn’t come back to his good form, it looks like it might be that time for retirement.”
Good form, he added, would be finishing in the top three. Or maybe fourth, beaten “only a short distance.”
That’s not how it played out, however.
Under jockey Horacio Karamanos — riding in place of the injured Trevor McCarthy — Ben’s Cat broke sharply to attain an outside position stalking the breakaway speed of Spartianos.
Not by design, though.
“I think he can run better when you take him back a little more and save some ground,” Karamanos said. “I couldn’t today. I tried to take a hold and sit behind, but he was rank and rank and rank.”
In the lane, Ben’s Cat could not mount any real rally, and mid-stretch, he was put in tight by the hard-charging Phlash Phelps and faded from there. He ended up ninth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths.
Karamanos said that being put in tight had no effect on the outcome.
“My horse just was dead,” he said. “He was empty out there.”
Phlash Phelps, Victor Carrasco up, went on to win the race, pipping English Minister and Talk Show Man — three cutting-back routers — by a neck and an additional nose, respectively. Running time for the six furlongs was 1:08.40.
Phlash Phelps, trained by Rodney Jenkins for Hillwood Stable, now has won four stakes, including the last two runnings of the Maryland Million Turf. He now has seven wins from 17 career starts and earnings just north of $380,000. A big year may be in the offing.
But to the extent that the 2017 Mister Diz is remembered, it may be as Ben’s Cat’s swan song. He won this event six consecutive times before finishing third as the favorite last year.
“His last four races have been below par,” Leatherbury said this morning, prior to today’s action. “He’s certainly worrying me.”
Now it’s five straight below par.