Maryland Jockey Club handicapper Frank Carulli has established the King Leatherbury homebred as the even money favorite in the 6-furlong turf test. Three weeks ago, he became the fourth horse to win the same Maryland Million race three consecutive years with a victory in the Turf Sprint. The son of Parker’s Storm Cat became Leatherbury’s first millionaire with a victory in the Turf Monster Handicap (G3) at Parx Racing in early September. He has won 18-of-27 starts with 13 stakes scores for earnings of $1,216,090.
The 79-year-old has conditioned two Grade 1 winners: Catatonic (1987 Hempstead Stakes) and Taking Risks (1994 Iselin Handicap), saddled four Preakness runners and other graded winners such as Ameri Valay, Learned Jake, Dynamic Trick and Ah Day.
Now six, Ben’s Cat had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at age four in 2010, then began his career with eight consecutive victories. He is a perfect 5-for-5 on the Laurel Park turf.
“Everybody knows the story of this horse,” added Leatherbury, who also owns and bred his star. “I’ve got the overwhelming favorite but he still has to win which he usually does. I should have no excuses.”
Julian Pimentel has the riding assignment.
Eight challengers are willing to face the favorite, including millionaire Heros Reward, the 9-2 second choice. The 10-year-old, who has career earnings of $1,272,898, finished three-quarters of a length behind Ben’s Cat on Maryland Million day. Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount on the Dale Capuano trainee.
“My horse is very consistent and I’m excited to be on him,” said Dominguez, who was a regular rider in Maryland from 2000-2003. “I’ve been in races against Ben’s Cat and followed his career to some extent. He has done great for King but I’m hoping we can beat him.”
An intriguing runner is 3-year-old filly Jazzy Idea (6-1), who has already won a pair of stakes races during the Laurel fall meet. The daughter of Great Notion broke the 6-furlong turf record in the Jameela Stakes (Sept. 5) then wheeled back to win the Maryland Million Oaks on the main track.
SAGAMORE FARM WELL REPRESENTED SATURDAY AFTERNOON
In 2007, Maryland native Kevin Plank of Under Armour fame bought historic Sagamore Farm with hopes of restoring the Baltimore County breeding and racing operation to prominence. On Saturday, Sagamore will be represented by three stakes runners.
“It is important to us to participate in days like this,” Sagamore trainer Ignacio Correas said. “Kevin wants to pump up Maryland racing and the conditions in the state are better now than when we started. For a new operation like us to have three horses is very promising.”
Hamp is the 4-1 second choice in the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds. Bred at Sagamore, the son of Sky Mesa has two wins and a third in four career starts.
“We are high on him,” Correas said. “He’s more of a stalker than a closer. The race has a lot of speed but I don’t know how close he is going to be to the pace. He’s doing great and this will be a good test.”
Circleofinfluence, who broke her maiden earlier this month at Laurel, is a 20-1 shot in the $150,000 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Discreet Marq (5-2) and Heading to Toga (3-1) figure to vie for favoritism.
Charged Cotton is listed at 20-1 on the morning line in the $150,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes, a field where 11 of the 14 runners are stakes winners. Charged Cotton has won 3-of-4 this year, including a score in the All Brandy Stakes here on Sept. 15.
“She’s a very good filly who seems to be getting better every race but this is a big step up,” added Correas. “She’s sitting on a good race. We hope she has that kind of quality. It’s a good test for the filly to see if she can go forward.”
The fifth turf stakes on the De Francis Dash undercard is the $150,000 Laurel Turf Cup. Fourteen runners will start in this 1-1/2 mile marathon, with recent Laurel Park stakes winner See Tobe the lukewarm 7-2 program favorite. Other live runners include Slip and Drive (4-1), Freud’s Honour (5-1), Roadhog (6-1), Lake Drop (6-1) and London Lane (8-1).
The $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash includes 11 sprinters. A full advance was produced Wednesday afternoon and is available at http://www.laurelpark.com/race-info/news/eleven-sprinters-entered-saturdays-frank-j-de-francis-memorial-dash