Bred, owned and trained by the legendary King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat was winning for the ninth time in twelve lifetime starts. The son of Parker’s Storm Cat has won four stakes since his debut as a four-year-old last year but this was his first added money victory racing on the main track.
“I still think he is a little better on the turf but this was his strongest effort on the dirt,” said Leatherbury, who ranks third on the all-time win list with 6,316. “It is hard to say who he beat. The one horse I was worried about (Digger) did not fire but he ran well.”
Ben’s Cat completed the distance in 57.82 and paid $5.40. He topped a $32 exacta and $118.80 trifecta.
The former claimer, whose debut had been put on hold due to a broken pelvis, reeled off eight straight wins in 2010, including three stakes wins on the Laurel Park turf course. The gelding had not won since November but was competitive in three stakes efforts, including a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 General George Handicap in his previous start.
With regular rider Julian Pimentel in New York to ride Norman Asbjornson in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Rose picked up the mount but only after Sheldon Russell had committed to Heros Reward, who was scratched by trainer Dale Capuano when the Mister Diz came off the turf.
“I was just a passenger today,” said Rose, who rode three winners on the Saturday card. “I broke, sat inside, went outside while he did all the work. You have to like any horse who puts a string of wins together like he did. Today, I loved how easy he was to rate and when I hit the accelerator, he was gone.”
Leatherbury indicated Ben’s Cat, who has now earned $268,230 in his career, could run in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the Black-Eyed Susan card (May 20) or a day later in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard.
MARYLAND RUNNERS 1-4 IN WOOD MEMORIAL
Fair Hill-based Toby’s Corner upset 1-9 shot Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial this afternoon at Aqueduct. The Graham Motion trainee broke his maiden at Laurel Park last November and won an allowance race at Laurel in January before winning the Whirlaway Stakes a month later.
Norman Asbjornson, from Chris Grove’s Bowie Training Center barn, finished fourth, 3-1/4 lengths behind Uncle Mo, who was the prohibitive favorite for next month’s Kentucky Derby heading into the Wood. Grove wants the son of Real Quiet to run next in the $1 million Preakness® Stakes (Grade 1), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, on May 21 at Pimlico.
J J’s Lucky Train, who won the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park in late February, was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes earlier on the Aqueduct card.
Joe Vann, who won a pair of races at Laurel during the winter meeting, took the Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.