One more Cat as Leatherbury scores on Ben’s Cat day
by Frank Vespe
Call it symmetry. Or a passing of the torch.
On they day they laid Ben’s Cat to rest, King T. Leatherbury’s The Jim Stable showed it’s very much alive, and the distinctive orange-and-white silks that Ben’s Cat took to the winner’s circle 32 times in his distinguished career made yet another visit Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park.
Perhaps fittingly, it was an old-timer — like Ben’s Cat, an 11-year-old — who did the honors. Classic Wildcat, an aged Forest Wildcat gelding who was a main-track-only entrant in the fourth race, a $7,500 claiming sprint originally slated for the grass, looped the field on the outside and went on to win by a length-and-a-half under jockey Jevian Toledo. Classic Wildcat — like the horses that have provided most of Leatherbury’s nearly 6,500 wins — arrived in the barn via the claimbox, now has 26 wins in his career, and paid $6.40 to win.
It felt like an the inevitable outcome on a day that was billed as a Ben’s Cat celebration but, in light of the Cat’s passing earlier this year, was tinged with more than a bit of sadness.
Just a few hours prior to Classic Wildcat’s win, Leatherbury and others had laid the other Cat to rest.
In a ceremony attended by approximately 150 horsemen, jockeys and fans – and breeder, owner and Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury – Ben’s Cat’s remains were lowered into the ground on the northeast side of Laurel’s historic paddock. He died from complications following surgery earlier this year.
“Ben’s Cat was an amazing, magnificent animal,” said Leatherbury, who bent down to rest a dozen orange roses – the color of Leatherbury’s and Ben’s Cat silks – in front of the gelding’s final resting place.
Ben’s Cat won 32 of 63 races and earned more than $2.6 million in his career. Leatherbury bred and trained him, and his The Jim Stable owned the gelded son of Parker’s Storm Cat.