King Leatherbury pays tribute to Ben's Cat Nov. 11 at Laurel Park

King Leatherbury pays tribute to Ben's Cat Nov. 11 at Laurel Park

Maryland Jockey Club

Ben's Cat Laid to Rest at Laurel Park

Four-time Maryland Horse of the Year died in July after his retirement from racing.

Under a brilliant sky of blue on a Saturday morning that brought freezing temperatures to the Mid-Atlantic, they laid the remains of Ben's Cat in the frozen ground at Laurel Park.

In a ceremony attended by approximately 150 horsemen, jockeys and fans—and breeder, owner, and Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury—Ben's Cat's remains were lowered into the ground on the northeast side of Laurel's paddock Nov. 11. The 26-time stakes winner died July 18 from complications following colic surgery.

"Ben's Cat was an amazing, magnificent animal," said Leatherbury, who bent down to rest a dozen orange roses—the color of Leatherbury's and Ben's Cat silks—in front of the gelding's final resting place.

After thanking the crowd for attending, Leatherbury turned back to face Ben's Cat's grave and saluted.

Pastor Richard Monterrey, a former Maryland jockey, eulogized the four-time Maryland Horse of the Year as a competitor who "gave us incredible moments in Maryland racing and Thoroughbred racing."

"He gave us chills," Monterrey said.

Those attending included Maryland Jockey Club president and general manager Sal Sinatra; vice president of racing Georganne Hale; jockeys Trevor McCarthy, Julian Pimentel, and former jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr.; assistant trainer Avon Thorpe; and groom Fern Augusti.

Also attending was Chris Welker, whose farm in Kentucky Ben's Cat was retired to, as well as several fans from across the country. including James Weiler and Angie Bailey, who flew from Cincinnati for the service.

"He was very special," Weiler said. "I watched his races from Turfway Park. I remember races like the Parx Dash and especially the (Jim) McKay, when he came running from way back between horses. He was incredible."

After the services, Leatherbury and every jockey who won aboard Ben's Cat—Pimentel, McCarthy, Jeremy Rose, Homeister, Horacio Karamanos—signed memorabilia and a Ben's Cat poster while chatting with fans.

After the third race, Leatherbury was presented with a collage of Ben's Cat's photographs by Jim McCue, and a portrait of Ben's Cat with Leatherbury by photographer Jon Kral.

"I'm overwhelmed by the appreciation everyone has for Ben's Cat," Leatherbury said.

Less than 30 minutes after the ceremony, Leatherbury's silks were back in the Laurel winner's circle when he won the fourth race with the 11-year-old gelding Classic Wildcat.