Ben's Cat splits horses to win the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 20 at Pimlico Race Course

Ben's Cat splits horses to win the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 20 at Pimlico Race Course

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ben's Cat Does It Again in McKay Turf Sprint

Ten-year-old gelding won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint for the fourth straight year.

The Cat did it again.

For the fourth year in a row and fifth overall, 10-year-old warrior Ben's Cat won the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 20 and did it in dramatic fashion under the bright sun at Pimlico Race Course

Video: Jim McKay Turf Sprint S.

With an eighth to go in the five-furlong turf stakes, it appeared as if 4-5 favorite Rocket Heat would be untouchable on the lead again, just as he was last time out in a runaway Twin Spires Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) victory May 6 at Churchill Downs.

But in the final strides, as if he sensed the wire, Ben's Cat surged between the pacesetter and 25-1 longshot Spring to the Sky to win by a neck under jockey Trevor McCarthy.

"He's unbelievable," McCarthy said. "I've never been on an animal, anything like him. He rekicks and just—boom—he knows where the wire is. He goes, 'Come on, Trevor. Hang on.' He gives me it all and gets there just in time."

It was the 32nd victory from 55 starts for the gelding bred, owned, and trained by King Leatherbury, and his 26th stakes win.

Ben's Cat raced in fourth, saving ground on the rail, as Rocket Heat sped to fractions of :21.46 and :44.04 through a half-mile. With Rocket Heat still ahead in the final furlong, Spring to the Sky loomed on the outside, while Ben's Cat appeared as if he was flattening out on the inside before his late rally.

"This horse, I'll never be able to forget him," the 83-year-old Leatherbury said. "Of course, he's the one keeping me going right now."

And what about a fifth straight win in the Jim McKay as an 11-year old in 2017?

"Why not?" the trainer said.

The winner paid $7, $4.40, and $2.40. Spring to the Sky was a game second and brought $19.80 and $6.60, while Rocket Heat—another half-length back—delivered $2.20 to show.

Out of the Thirty Eight Paces mare Twofox, Ben's Cat has $2,590,937 in earnings.

Night Officer, who closed from last in the eight-horse field, finished fourth, followed by Rapid Dan, Jack's In the Deck, Expected Ruler, and Big Guy Ian, to complete the order of finish.