Ben's Cat will remain on turf as he targets a record fourth win in the 29th Jim McKay Maryland Million at Laurel Park Oct. 18.
Owner/trainer King Leatherbury opted for the $125,000 Turf at one mile for 8-year-old Ben's Cat instead of the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint on dirt earlier on the Saturday card. The 29-time winner was pre-entered in both races.
The noted turf sprinter has been more effective at shorter distances over his career but he ran a tough second as the 11-10 favorite in the Maryland Million Turf last year. He missed by a neck after leading in the stretch to Roadhog, who also is entered again.
Ben's Cat drew post 2 for his return to the Maryland Million. He won the Turf Sprint three consecutive years (2010-12) before the race was eliminated from the popular series for Maryland-breds.
Leatherbury initially was leaning to the Sprint Saturday, but changed his mind because he felt the Turf was an easier race.
"He’s (Roadhog) not as good as last year, I don’t think," the 81-year-old conditioner said.
With earnings of $2,175,990 over a 43-race career, Ben's Cat is looking to surpass Hall of Fame runner Safely Kept (Distaff-1989-90-91), Countus In (Ladies-1989-90-91), Mz. Zill Bear (Ladies-1993-94-95), and Docent (Sweepstakes-2001 & Classic-2002-03) as the only four-time Maryland Million winners. Julian Pimentel will once again be aboard Ben's Cat, who will carry 119 pounds in the weight-for-age contest.
Ben's Cat has 17 stakes victories on grass but is coming into the race off a third-place finish in the Laurel Dash three weeks ago.
"The last race was very disappointing to me," Leatherbury said. "A lot of times you run third and you’re happy to get third, but not when you expect to win. Even though he ran a nice race, I was disappointed. It worries me a little bit. Usually he runs better than I think he will."
Roadhog, who also won the Maryland Million Turf in 2012, has a win and three second-place finishes in six starts this year for trainer Lizzie Merryman. The 7-year-old son of Bowman's Band is 10-of-35 lifetime with earnings of $609,114. He drew post 9 with Kendrick Carmouche back aboard.
In addition to Roadhog and Ben’s Cat, the 12-horse field features 2012 runner-up Change of Command and stakes-placed Talk Show Man.
The \Maryland Million attracted 124 entrants to the 11-race program. First post for the $1 million day is 12:15 p.m. EDT. The Maryland Million Turf is the ninth race on the card with a scheduled post time of 5:01 p.m. EDT.
One race later, the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic at 1 1/8 miles features nine entrants including defending champion Eighttofasttocatch, who also won the race in 2011. The 8-year-old is the overwhelming 3-5 morning line favorite.
The gelded son of Not For Love finished off the board in his only start this year but Eighttofasttocatch has nine career stakes victories at Laurel Park. A win in the Classic would vault the Tim Keefe trainee past $1 million in career earnings. He is currently at $914,585.
"He’s coming into the race well," Keefe said. "He’s had a lot of time off, longer than I wanted. He’s been training well.”
Keefe indicated his Laurel-based star would be retired after the Jennings Handicap at Laurel Dec. 6.
"It’s hard when you’ve dictated a horse like this with a starting time and a finishing point and the finishing point is coming up," said Keefe, who has four career Maryland Million wins. "It’s a little bittersweet knowing that this is my favorite race of the year, always look forward to this and knowing that he’s just got one more after that. The saving grace is that he comes back to me."
Seventeenohsix, trained by John Servis, and Excessive Drama, from the Frank Abbott barn, enter the Maryland Million Classic off allowance wins at Parx Racing and Delaware Park, respectively.
Here is a quick look of some of the other races on Saturday’s program.
$100,000 Nursery (1st race): Eight 2-year-olds are entered, including Bullheaded Boy from the powerful Todd Pletcher stable, as well as Golden Years and Markakis, who both won first time out.
$100,000 Distaff (2nd race): 2012 Lassie winner Classy Coco and 2013 Lassie winner Jonesin for Jerry top a field of eight fillies and mares.
$100,000 Sprint (4th race): Eight sprinters are entered including 2013 General George Handicap (gr. III) winner Javerre.
$125,000 Ladies (5th race): Ten fillies and mares are expected, including defending champion Monster Sleeping and 2012 winner Pagan Priestess.
$100,000 Lassie (8th race): Thirteen 2-year-old fillies are entered, including Selima Stakes winner Miss Bullistic.
Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 1 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 2 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 4 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 5 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 8 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 9 Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 10
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Awol (MD) Jose R. Betancourt 120 John J. Robb - 2 2Stonebriar (MD) UNKNOWN 115 Timothy L. Keefe - 3 3Markakis (MD) Horacio Karamanos 120 Robin L. Graham - 4 4Wolftrap (MD) Xavier Perez 115 Anthony Aguirre - 5 5Golden Years (WV) Victor R. Carrasco 120 Rodney Jenkins - 6 6Legal Punch (MD) Jose C. Caraballo 115 Samuel F. Cronk - 7 7Bullheaded Boy (NY) Trevor McCarthy 120 Todd A. Pletcher - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Inspired Say Eye (MD) Jevian Toledo 110 Phil Schoenthal - 2 2Steady N Love (MD) Victor R. Carrasco 113 Gary Capuano - 3 3Classy Coco (PA) Trevor McCarthy 117 T. Bernard Houghton - 4 4Dress Up (MD) Luis A. Batista 112 Donald H. Barr - 5 5Coco Punch (MD) Horacio Karamanos 113 Robin L. Graham - 6 6Ann's Smart Dancer (PA) Alex Cintron 119 Philip M. Serpe - 7 7Bear Moon (NJ) Vince Halliday 113 Cathy Denelsbeck - 8 8Jonesin for Jerry (MD) Abel Castellano, Jr. 112 John J. Robb - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Jack's in the Deck (MD) Horacio Karamanos 115 Robin L. Graham - 2 2Avarice (VA) Trevor McCarthy 117 John J. Robb - 3 3D C Dancer (MD) Angel Serpa 115 Michael J. Trombetta - 4 4Javerre (NJ) J. D. Acosta 117 Cathal A. Lynch - 5 5Always Smiling (MD) Alex Cintron 116 Steven R. Brown - 6 6Shirakuma (NY) Yomar Orlando Ortiz 109 Corby Caiazzo - 7 7Gator Gold (MD) Walter Enrique Llagas 111 Joseph W. Ayres, Jr. - 8 8Tujoes (PA) Inoel Beato 115 Keith W. LeBarron - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Very Few Details (MD) Joshua Navarro 119 Dane Kobiskie - 2 2Mystic Love (MD) Victor R. Carrasco 119 Timothy L. Keefe - 3 3Pagan Priestess (VA) Forest Boyce 119 W. Robert Bailes - 4 4Devilish Love (PA) Alex Cintron 119 Anthony W. Dutrow - 5 5Love That Kelly (NJ) Javier Santiago 119 Hugh I. McMahon - 6 6Monster Sleeping (MD) Trevor McCarthy 119 Dale Capuano - 7 7Complete St. (VA) Daniel Centeno 121 Lilith E. Boucher - 8 8Jerry Love (AR) Kendrick Carmouche 114 Michael J. Trombetta - 9 9Moral High Ground (MD) Alberto Delgado 119 Anthony Aguirre - 10 10Bear Access (MD) Horacio Karamanos 119 Lawrence E. Murray - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Carpe Omnia (MD) Joshua Navarro 114 Linda L. Albert - 2 2Miss Bullistic (MD) Xavier Perez 119 Hamilton A. Smith - 3 3Spotted Heart (MD) Angel Serpa 114 Mark Shuman - 4 4Looking for Lucky (MD) Carol Cedeno 119 Ronald A. Alfano - 5 5Rockin Jojo (PA) Trevor McCarthy 119 T. Bernard Houghton - 6 6Fancy Love (MD) Forest Boyce 114 Lawrence E. Murray - 7 7Thessa's Roar (PA) UNKNOWN 114 Charles L. Frock - 8 8Sara Rocks (MD) Yomar Orlando Ortiz 119 W. Robert Bailes - 9 9My Magician (MD) Julian Pimentel 114 Michael J. Trombetta - 10 10Rocky Policy (MD) Luis Garcia 119 Robert Leaf, Jr. - 11 11Mo Bagels (MD) Cecily Evans 119 Dane Kobiskie - 12 12Callmealion (MD) J. D. Acosta 119 Charles L. Frock - 13 13Wowwhatabrat (MD) UNKNOWN 114 John E. Worsley - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Uncle Hugo (NY) Yomar Orlando Ortiz 114 Corby Caiazzo - 2 2Ben's Cat (MD) Julian Pimentel 119 King T. Leatherbury - 3 3Tru Greek (MD) Horacio Karamanos 119 Robin L. Graham - 4 4Capital Fellow (MD) Luis Garcia 119 Mark Shuman - 5 5Kiwi Notion (KY) UNKNOWN 119 Darrin Miller - 6 6Change of Command (MD) UNKNOWN 119 Michael J. Trombetta - 7 7Loves Last Chance (MD) Trevor McCarthy 114 H. Graham Motion - 8 8Excessive Drama (PA) Angel Serpa 119 Francis Abbott, III - 9 9Roadhog (PA) Kendrick Carmouche 119 Elizabeth M. Merryman - 10 10Willy d'Rocket (PA) Angel Suarez 119 Kelly A. Colgan - 11 11Talk Show Man (MD) Xavier Perez 119 Hamilton A. Smith - 12 12Titan Alexander (VA) J. D. Acosta 119 Jeff C. Runco - PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Love's Not Fair (MD) Horacio Karamanos 119 Claudio A. Gonzalez - 2 2Connemara Coast (MD) Daniel Centeno 119 Timothy L. Keefe - 3 3Eighttofasttocatch (MD) Forest Boyce 119 Timothy L. Keefe - 4 4Concealed Identity (MD) J. D. Acosta 119 Linda S. Gaudet - 5 5Turbin (MD) Inoel Beato 119 Keith Nations - 6 6Irish Lion (MD) Jevian Toledo 119 Phil Schoenthal - 7 7Wild Louis (MD) Cecily Evans 119 Dane Kobiskie - 8 8Seventeenohsix (PA) Kendrick Carmouche 119 John C. Servis - 9 9Excessive Drama (PA) Angel Serpa 119 Francis Abbott, III -
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Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 2
Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 4
Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 5
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Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 9
Laurel Park, Saturday, October 18, 2014, Race 10