Friday, April 08, 2011


BALTIMORE, 04-07-11---The improbable success of Ben’s Cat was one of the more intriguing storylines on the Maryland racing scene in 2010. Saturday afternoon, the King Leatherbury homebred will try to stay unbeaten on the grass in the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, a race he won a year ago.

The former claimer, whose debut had been put on hold due to a broken pelvis, reeled off eight straight wins during his 4-year-old campaign from May 8 through Nov. 24, including three stakes wins on the Laurel Park turf course. The gelding has not won since November but has been competitive in three stakes efforts, including a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 General George Handicap in his last start.

“His turf races are better but I am still not convinced he is better on the grass,” said Leatherbury, who ranks third on the all-time win list with 6,315. “Every time he won was a surprise right on up the ladder. He started out at 20,000 then 25 (thousand) and went through his conditions. He has been training very well and I am very pleased.”

Jeremy Rose has the mount. Regular rider Julian Pimentel will be in New York to ride Norman Asbjornson in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Ben’s Cat is the second choice on the morning line at odds of 5-2.

Although he hasn’t started since last June, Music City is listed as the 8-5 favorite to win. Maryland Jockey Club oddsmaker Frank Carulli is postulating that the speedy son of City Zip can out step his seven rivals at the five-furlong distance. Music City, who was last seen winning the grassy Morluck Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 18, has a win and a runner-up finish in three starts on the infield for trainer William Helmbrecht. Casey Fusilier gets his first try aboard the son of City Zip.

Digger (5-1), a frontrunning son of Yonaguska who is trained by Bruce Brown at Belmont Park, makes his turf debut in the Mister Diz. He comes into the race off a gate-to-wire win against optional claimers at Aqueduct on March 17. Mario Pino will handle the reins on the 7-year-old gelding who has five career stakes victories on the dirt and earnings of $534,966.

Heros Reward (6-1) is one of 20 Maryland-bred millionaires with $1,121,598 in the bank in 41 career starts. The son of Partner’s Hero, who won the 2009 running of the Mister Diz and finished eighth in last year’s edition, returns to action after a five-month absence. The gelding is an eleven-time winner on the turf, including back-to-back scores in the Turf Sprint on Preakness weekend (2007-08). Sheldon Russell rides Heros Reward for the first time for trainer Dale Capuano.

Dickie Small will saddle Delaunay (10-1), who starts from the rail in the Mister Diz. The Smoke Glacken offspring has two seconds on the grass and three wins from sixteen starts overall. Forest Boyce is his rider.

Sandbagin’ Lover (10-1) is winless over the past two years, with three losses to Ben’s Cat among his past five outings. The son of Outflanker was third behind Heros Reward in the ’09 Mister Diz and second in last year’s running. Erick Rodriguez has the mount for trainer Hugh McMahon.

With his past two victories coming against lesser claiming company, Norjac (12-1) tries the turf for the first time for trainer Benny Feliciano after 56 dirt efforts. The 7-year-old son of Peaks and Valleys has 40 in the money finishes, including 17 trips to the winners’ circle. Abel Castellano will ride.

Feliciano will also saddle Natural Seven (15-1), a nine-time winner on the grass, including an upset victory over Heros Reward in the 2009 Maryland Million Turf Sprint. The Partner’s Hero gelding finished second in the Seabiscuit Stakes at Suffolk Downs last summer, but has failed to hit the board in five consecutive starts. No rider is named.

The eight runners have combined for 75 career wins in 245 starts with earnings of nearly $3 million.

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