Ben's Cat earned a trip to Churchill Downs in November by winning the $356,000 Turf Monster Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Sept. 5 at Parx Racing.
The five-furlong turf handicap is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) being held Nov. 5 .
With his victory in the Turf Monster, the 5-year-old gelded son of Parker's Storm Cat, out of Twofox (by Thirty Eight Paces), also swept Pennsylvania’s two largest turf sprints. On July 30, Ben’s Cat captured the $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap over the same distance at Penn National Race Course, winning by a neck as the favorite over Cardashi.
Ben’s Cat is a homebred for his trainer King Leatherbury, who bred the gelding in Maryland.
A total of 12 competitors lined up for Turf Monster. When the gates sprang open, Streakin' Mohican and Central City challenged each other for the early lead with Central City under Robby Albarado grabbing the front spot after several strides. Behind the early leaders was a tight pack that included Perfect Officer, Heros Reward, and Cardashi. The opening quarter was run in :22.02 as Ben’s Cat coasted toward the back of the field.
Horses began to spread as they entered the turn. Ben’s Cat and rider Jeremy Rose steadily advanced, then swung out into the middle of the track as the leaders rolled into the top of the stretch. Streakin’ Mohican and Perfect Officer had hooked up down along the rail but they were no match for the late kick of Ben’s Cat.
Seventh at mid-stretch, the winner rolled easily past the leaders to win by half a length over Perfect Officer, who finished a neck in ftont of Chamberlain Bridge.
The co-highweight at 122 pounds, Chamberlain Bridge engaged Ben’s Cat briefly in midstretch and stayed close enough to him to claim third by a head over Streakin' Mohican. Winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT), Chamberlain Bridge was seeking his third Turf Monster victory.
Favorite Regally Ready raced well off the rail in the back of the pack and was never a factor, finishing 10th at odds of 8-5.
The final time was :57.30. Ben’s Cat paid $10.60, $5.40, and $3.60 as the second choice in the field. Perfect Officer paid $9.20 and $7.80, while Chamberlain Bridge paid $5.20. The exacta paid $97.60, and the trifecta paid a hefty $624.80.
It has been another phenomenal year for Ben’s Cat, who broke his pelvis as a 2-year-old and was stall-bound for six months. Leatherbury did not have high expectations when the gelding finally made it to the races as a 4-year-old. But Ben’s Cat won his first time out and then won his next seven starts, including the Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap on Maryland Million Day. The gelding won the same race again earlier this year, now renamed the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes.
Ben’s Cat has now won 12 times in 17 starts and has career earnings of $676,230. He has won seven stakes, with the Turf Monster being his first graded stakes victory.
The Turf Monster results were tempered by the loss of Central City, Oxbow Racing’s stakes-winning son of City Place out of Apache Dancer (by Alphabet Soup). At the top the stretch, Albarado began easing up Central City. The horse suddenly collapsed onto the track and died of an apparent heart attack.
Parx Racing offered a couple other stakes on the card including the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, which attracted a good field that included graded stakes winners Joe Vann (TVG Illinois Derby, gr. III), J J's Lucky Train (Bay Shore Stakes, gr. III), and Scotus (Matt Winn Stakes, gr. III).
The one mile and 70-yard test on the dirt for 3-year-olds, however, was won by Wilburn , a son of Bernardini bred in Kentucky by Woodbridge Bloodstock. The colt is owned by Stonestreet Stable, which bought him for $625,000 at last year’s Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale. Wilburn, who won his first stakes in the Smarty Jones, has now won four times in seven starts and earned $286,106.
Wilburn, ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by Steve Asmussen, won by 1 3/4 lengths. The final time was 1:40.89. Redeemed finished second and I'm Steppin' It Up was third by a nose.
The other stakes run at Parx was the $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap won by Suzzona, a daughter of The Name's Jimmy out of Planca, by Sunny's Halo. She was bred in Kentucky by Larry and Sharon Cunningham and is owned by Sandy Valley Farm. Suzzona was ridden by Julian Pimentel and trained by Benjamin Feliciano Jr.
Bounding Bi finished second and Separate Forest was third. The final time was :57.61 for the five furlong race for fillies and mares 3 years old and older.