The Jim Stable's Ben's Cat, who hadn't raced since late November on dirt, overcame a wide trip in a good grass allowance field May 1 at Laurel Park to win his 10-year-old debut.
Video: Race 4 (ALW) at LRL on 5/1/16
Ridden by Trevor McCarthy for Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury, Ben's Cat broke well from the outside post in a field of eight and settled behind the early leaders while wide up the backstretch in the 5 1/2-furlong open allowance test. The son of Parker's Storm Cat fanned even wider into the stretch, but rallied strongly to collar front-running Rapid Dan to win in 1:03.21 on a turf course rated good.
Rapid Dan set quick fractions of :22.96 for the opening quarter-mile and :45.35 for the half-mile, while tracked by solid East Coast turf sprinter Night Officer. He was able to repel Night Officer but not Ben's Cat, who rallied past to win for the 31st time in 54 starts.
Ben's Cat, bred by Leatherbury in Maryland out of the Thirty Eight Paces mare Twofox, won for the 20th time in 37 starts on turf and for the eighth time in 12 starts on the Laurel grass. The gelding has won eight times, and finished worse than third on "wet" turf only once, in 15 attempts.
Ben's Cat paid $6 to win as the second choice, behind the Brad Grady-owned and Joe Sharp-trained entry of Aztec Brave and El Botas. He won by a neck over Rapid Dan, who finished a length ahead of Night Officer.
"He ran a super race," Leatherbury said. "I was afraid of that entry shipping in here. It was a little hard for him to get rolling because of where he was (in the race), but once he got himself together and fired down the stretch, he looked like his old self."
"He broke well and was a little sharper than I thought he would be," said McCarthy, who rode Ben's Cat for the first time. "I really didn't have to do much. He did all the work."
Julian Pimentel rode Ben's Cat in 41 of his 53 starts. McCarthy is one of only five riders to have won aboard the gelding.
Leatherbury earlier said he hoped for a good effort from Ben's Cat in the May 1 allowance event and would point him to a stakes at Pimlico Race Course during Preakness Stakes (gr. I) week. He confirmed that Ben's Cat would attempt to win the May 20 Jim McKay Turf Sprint for the fifth time in the last six years.