Ben's Cat seeks third Turf Monster; female sprinters contest Masters

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 5th, 2015

The venerable Maryland-bred gelding Ben’s Cat will attempt to win the $300,000 Turf Monster H. (G3) at Parx on Monday for a third time, but the nine-year-old has severe obstacles in his path, namely Sharp Sensation and Tightend Touchdown.

While Ben’s Cat has beaten both on multiple occasions throughout his illustrious career, the younger rivals have had his number in recent outings on the Parx turf course. Sharp Sensation outfinished Ben’s Cat by a head in the 2014 Turf Monster, and enters off a tough nose loss to New York’s top grass sprinter, Shore Runner, in the $100,000 Lucky Coin at Saratoga.

Tightend Touchdown, meanwhile, continued to show his partiality for the local lawn when registering a 12-1 upset of the July 11 Parx Dash (G3), defeating both Amelia’s Wild Ride and Ben’s Cat. While it was the first win in five attempts on the Parx turf for the gelding, he had placed twice previously in both the Parx Dash and Turf Monster.

While Tightend Touchdown might not be able to transfer his best Philadelphia form to Keeneland in a potential attempt in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) next month, Sharp Sensation finished a close third in the Woodford (G3) over that course last year and might be the most capable of the three Turf Monster protagonists going forward.

Ben’s Cat can’t be written off just yet, but age has arguably crept up on the King Leatherbury charge this year. Bringing an 8-5-2-1 course mark into the Parx Dash two months ago, Ben’s Cat hardly fired at all in a sixth-place effort.

Amelia’s Wild Ride has been an inconsistent visitor to the winner’s circle this year, finishing behind the top contenders in the Parx Dash and Lucky Coin following a photo-finish victory in the May 30 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup.

Mongolian Saturday was second by a head in the Parx Dash at odds of 51-1, and a recent allowance win at Arlington suggests that might not have been a fluke. Another to watch out for is the Christophe Clement-trained Pure Sensation, a stakes winner that has won both of his one-turn turf appearances.

The $200,000 Turf Amazon H., the filly and mare counterpart to the Turf Monster, is unlikely to yield a serious Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint contender. The probable favorites are Thieves Guild, recent winner of the $98,000 Caress at Saratoga, and Everything Lovely, who possesses a three-for-three mark over the course and distance.

Also of note are Joya Real and Jewel of a Cat, the runner-up and third-place finisher in the 2014 Turf Amazon.

 The $200,000 Greenwood Cup (G3), a 1 1/2-mile prep for the Marathon (G2) on the October 30 Breeders’ Cup undercard, include graded stakes veterans Majestic Harbor and Neck ‘n Neck.

Elsewhere in the Keystone state on Labor Day, nine fillies and mares will square off in the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2) over 6 1/2 furlongs on Tapeta.

In its brief eight-year history, the Masters has been won by the eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner four times: Informed Decision (2009), Musical Romance (2011), and Groupie Doll (2012-13). Future Filly & Mare Sprint winners Dubai Majesty and Judy the Beauty have also placed in the Masters.

The race had no impact on the Filly & Mare Sprint last year, a trend perhaps likely to continue more often than not as the race is now one of the few in its class still contested on a synthetic surface.

However, the one the one to fear most in this edition of the Masters, Leigh Court, is both a synthetic specialist and a major winner on the Keeneland dirt. A dominating three-length scorer of the 2014 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2), Leigh Court will be making her second start off a lengthy layoff in the Masters.

Living the Life is back to defend her Masters title, while last year’s third Ageless, who recently edged Leigh Court in the Royal North (G3) at Woodbine, is more likely to target the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after this. She ran a close fourth in that event last season at Santa Anita.

Ben’s Cat (orange silks) winning the May 15 Turf Sprint at Pimlico courtesy of Spencer Tulis/