Ben's Cat with Trevor McCarthy after winning the 11th Running of The Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on May 20, 2016.

Ben's Cat with Trevor McCarthy after winning the 11th Running of The Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico on May 20, 2016.

Chad B. Harmon

Indefatigable Ben's Cat Targets PA Gov's Cup

The 10-year-old will make his fifth appearance in the June 4 turf sprint.

By Erich Zimney

Sitting fourth at the furlong pole of a five-furlong turf sprint with seemingly nowhere to run isn't exactly a recipe for success. Some horses pack it in and retreat. Others persevere onward and grab a piece of the purse.

But what do you do when you're a 10-year-old with 55 lifetime starts under your belt? Naturally, you surge, split horses, and get up by a neck to win the same six-figure stakes race for the fifth time in your career.

At least, that's what Ben's Cat does.

With a growing legion of fans and supporters looking on regionally and nationally, the indefatigable son of Parker's Storm Cat looks to follow up on his success in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint by lining up for his fifth try in the $150,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup on the Penn National Penn Mile program June 4. The Governor's Cup will be the second race in the four-race, all-stakes Pick 4 sequence that begins with the Penn Oaks and culminates with the $500,000 Penn Mile (gr. III).

Questions arose about whether Ben's Cat—winner of 32 races—had lost a step after he checked in seventh in the $200,000 Fabulous Strike at Penn National to close out his 9-year-old campaign.

But the earner of more than $2.5 million put that to rest with a win in a tough allowance race at Laurel Park to start 2016, and followed up with his stirring win in the Jim McKay on Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico Race Course.

BALAN: Ben's Cat Does it Again in McKay Turf Sprint

The Cat's trainer, King T. Leatherbury, is succinct but definitive in capturing what Ben's Cat means to not only himself, but his barn and fans.

"He's just a very special horse," said the Hall of Fame conditioner. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse that has built an enormous fan base. We are very proud of our superstar."

Truth be told, the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup hasn't been kind to Ben's Cat over the years; he shows just one win, in the 2011 edition, from four efforts. A couple rough trips in the race and the narrowest of defeats in 2015 to Amelia's Wild Ride have been to blame, and Leatherbury remains confident that Ben's Cat can make the Governor's Cup the eighth different stakes race his star has won multiple times in his career.

He sees the versatility of his jet-black runner as one of his biggest assets.

"It really doesn't matter where he draws," he added. "He is versatile and will not by handicapped by any post."

After winning on Ben's Cat in his first two tries, Leatherbury didn't think it was too hard of a decision to keep jockey Trevor McCarthy aboard for a third time.

"He will ride Ben's Cat on Saturday. No reason to change when he's batting 1,000," he said.

The star of the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup won't be without competition however, with Anthony McCarthy's Spring to the Sky out for revenge following his narrow defeat at the hands of Ben's Cat in the Jim McKay. The Bruce Brown trainee was denied just his second win in 20 months in the McKay but sports plenty of back class including multiple stakes wins in his 33 race career.

Spring to the Sky will be ridden by Mike Luzzi in the Governor's Cup and leaves post 2.

The wild card in the field could be Matthew Schera's Cyclogenisis, who comes into the race off a layoff of more than seven months for trainer George Weaver.

After his first three career outings produced a maiden victory at Saratoga Race Course and stakes wins in the Laurel Futurity and Tom Ridge at Presque Isle Downs, the son of Stormy Atlantic  was sent to Royal Ascot to tackle the big boys in the Commonwealth Cup (Eng-I) in June of 2015. While that trip across the pond didn't prove fruitful, Cyclogenisis looked to be back on the right foot after returning stateside when he finished less than two lengths behind Ready for Rye in the Quick Call at Saratoga. However, a poor effort as the favorite in the Nearctic (Can-II) at Woodbine was followed by the extended break Cyclogenisis received coming into the Governor's Cup.

Working steadily towards his return up in New York, Cyclogenisis will have the services of jockey Javier Castellano for the first time in the Governor's Cup.

Trainer Alan Goldberg hopes to repeat the success he enjoyed on Penn Mile day last year when he won the main event with Force the Pass, and sends out two horses in the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup with hopes of doing just that.

Take Cover, a son of 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner War Chant, enters the Governor's Cup off back-to-back wins; the first coming in a turf sprint at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where he broke his maiden, and then in a Laurel allowance race on April 29. Likewise, Pool Winner comes in off two straight victories, the most recent being a hard fought win in an optional claiming allowance at Laurel.

Boot Scootn Daddy, Made Bail, and the locally based Call First complete the lineup for the five-furlong Pennsylvania Governor's Cup. The race also serves as part of the Penn Gaming Racing Challenge Event, a year-long incentive competition comprised of 22 races worth more than $5 million purse money that offers bonuses such as waived entry fees at PNGI tracks the following year and a trip to the PNGI-owned M Resort in Las Vegas.

Entries: Pennsylvania Governor's Cup S.

Penn National Race Course, Saturday, June 04, 2016, Race 2

  • STK
  • 5f
  • Turf
  • $150,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 6:35 PM (local)
31Take Cover (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoe Bravo120Alan E. Goldberg5/1
51APool Winner (KY)Joel Rosario120Alan E. Goldberg5/1
12Call First (KY)Julio A. Hernandez120Gina Perri20/1
23Spring to the Sky (KY)Michael J. Luzzi123Bruce R. Brown3/1
44Boot Scootn Daddy (KY)Florent Geroux120Guadalupe Preciado8/1
65Ben's Cat (MD)Trevor McCarthy123King T. Leatherbury8/5
76Street Icon (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJorge A. Vargas, Jr.120Uriah St. Lewis30/1
87Made Bail (VA)Victor R. Carrasco120Susan S. Cooney15/1
98Cyclogenisis (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano120George Weaver4/1