Ben’s Cat won the Mister Diz last year when the race was taken off the turf and contested on the main track and took the 2010 version on the Laurel Park grass. Today he bounded to the finish line under Horacio Karamanos, beating front-running Steady Warrior by a neck. He stopped the clock in 57.26 seconds.
Trainer King Leatherbury gave the reigning Maryland-bred Horse of the Year a three-month break after a tough 2011 campaign and targeted this race for his star’s 6-year-old debut. But Steady Warrior didn’t make it easy. The Gary Capuano trainee, who finished just a length behind Ben’s Cat in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint last October, outdueled Delaunay for the lead and sprinted clear in upper stretch but was over taken by the winner about 40 yards from the wire.
“Good effort but good doesn’t beat Ben’s Cat,” said Gary Capuano. “I have to see him (Ben’s Cat) every day, he is in the barn next to me and I know how good he is.”
Before the race, Gary’s brother, Dale Capuano, who saddled fifth place finisher Heros Reward, said Ben’s Cat was training better than ever.
“Those Capuano boys have good eyes. Dale told me a couple times how well he thought he was doing leading into the race,” said Leatherbury, who ranks third on the all-time win list with 6,338 victories. “He is fresh and I thought he would be near the lead but he was way back. He scares you a little bit, especially today. He’s back there like he’s not running a lick and then he runs in the stretch to get the job done. Once he gets rolling you feel like he’s going to win.”
The son of Parker’s Storm Cat had to recover from a broken pelvis before he made his maiden debut at age four and then began his career with eight consecutive victories, including five on the main track. Last year, Ben’s Cat won four sprint stakes on the turf, including the G3 Turf Monster Handicap.
“It is really an amazing story,” said Leatherbury, who 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.
Leatherbury, who also owns and bred the winner, said Ben’s Cat would make his next start in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint here on May 18, a race he won a year ago.
Ben’s Cat, who has now won 15 of 21 starts with lifetime earnings of $845,230, paid $3.20.