The remarkable Ben's Cat surged through an opening near mid-stretch to put his head in front in the final strides, capturing the inaugural running of the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National Race Course on the night Nov. 21 (VIDEO).
Ben's Cat, ridden as usual by Julian Pimentel, reached the line a head in front of Immortal Eyes at odds of nearly 6-1 for his 19th lifetime win from 29 starts. Bred, owned and trained by King Leatherbury (The Jim Stable), the 6-year-old Maryland-bred son of Parker's Storm Cat extended his lifetime earnings to $1,357,290 with the winning purse of $111,200.
K.T. Leatherbury Associates bred Ben's Cat, who is out of the Thirty Eight Paces mare Twofox.
The winning time for six furlongs on a fast track was 1:09.50. Poseidon's Warrior finished third, three-quarters of length behind Immortal Eyes. The 2-1 choice Il Villano finished a non-threatening fourth after stumbling at the start and rallying mildly late.
Ben's Cat raced mid-pack in the field of nine along the inside as Philly Bound dueled with Mega Rush and Immortal Eyes for the lead to the quarter pole. Fractions were quick—:22.11 and :44.51. Ben's Cat was floated a bit wide in traffic and lacked room in upper stretch but an opening occurred when Philly Bound weakened. Ben's Cat, encouraged by Pimentel, found room to the inside of Immortal Eyes and got the lead under right-handed urging.
He finished in a full drive to the wire in order to hold off a determined comeback from Immortal Eyes, who was ridden by Travis Dunkelberger.
"I really didn't think he was going to win because he's basically a turf horse," Leatherbury said. "There were some really tough horses in here; some of the top sprinters in the country. I was coming to pick up a piece of the purse, hopefully.
"I knew he was raring to run and down the backside Julian had plenty of horse under him. He got in a little tight quarters, I thought he was going to stay on the inside. He swung to the outside and had a wall of horses in front of him. Once he got through, he went on very nicely. He wins these close races, which is good, but a little scary when you're watching! He's a remarkable horse, what can I say."
The victory was the 14th in an added-money event for Ben's Cat, a multiple graded stakes winner who is equally at home sprinting on turf or dirt. The dark bay or brown gelding began his career in 2010 with eight consecutive wins in Maryland and Delaware.
Ben's Cat, who was coming off a runner-up finish in the Laurel Dash Stakes Oct. 27 at Laurel Park, carried 120 pounds and paid a generous $13.80, $5.60, and $3 as the fifth choice in the field. Immortal Eyes returned $6 and $4 and completed an $84.20 exacta. Poseidon's Warrior, the 122-pound highweight ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., paid $2.40 to show.
Il Villano was followed by Braulio, Golddigger's Boy, Sloane Ranger, Philly Bound, and Mega Rush.