Leatherbury on Ben's Cat: 'It brings tears to my eyes'
Selected quotes from winning connections on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan undercard, courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club
Ben’s Cat, who notched his 26th career stakes victory in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint
Owner/breeder/trainer King Leatherbury: “I was worried. He was back and that other horse was running his eyeballs out setting a real fast pace. I knew he’d be kicking in but I didn’t think he’d be able to catch him. He fired right at the end, like he always does. That’s his running style. He’s a great horse, that’s all.
“Good horses, all the time they come up, but they don’t last. Fans have a favorite horse and a year or two later, they’re gone. Here, he just goes and goes and goes and that’s what makes him so popular. He’s still around after all this time.
“It brings tears to my eyes, what can I say. It’s just amazing. That’s Ben’s Cat. It’s my salvation, really. That’s why I’m still here.
“We planned to keep the same schedule as we did in the past. We’ll be heading to Pennsylvania for his next race (Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup; June 4, Penn National). We’ll be making reservations for here and there for next year. The last time my horse won the same race five times in a row, they cancelled the race – that was the Maryland Million Turf Sprint. He just keeps going.
“They say too many thrills will kill you, but I can attest that that is not the case. I’d have been dead a long time ago if that were true. This is actually the horse that keeps me going, fortunately. I’ve been using the same exercise rider from Day One and every time I asked him if he was as good coming into this race as last year, he told me, ‘He’s better.’”
(On another old campaigner that he conditioned) “Do you remember Port Conway Lane? Charles Kuralt did a piece on him one Sunday morning out here. He was good and he was old, but he could never run at this level.”
Jockey Trevor McCarthy: “He’s an unbelievable horse, by far, the best horse I’ve ever been on. I’ve just never seen a horse like that. You just have to give him something to run at. He was running up the fence, up the fence, and when I swung him out into the clear, I knew we were gone. I mean, just unbelievable. He knows where the wire is and says, ‘Let’s go Trevor, let’s go.’ He gave me his all and I wasn’t worried at all.”
Noble Bird, winner of the Pimlico Special (G3)
Trainer Mark Casse: “It was the exact opposite of what happened to him last time. Before his last start, I told a couple news people that I’ve been doing this for 37 years and he’s one of the toughest horses I’ve ever trained. After his last race, ‘No, he’s the toughest.’ He makes good riders look bad. He’s so sensitive about his mounts. As a 2-year-old, I told Mr. Oxley that this horse was going to win the Kentucky Derby, that’s the ability that he displayed. He’s his own worst enemy. Today? That’s how good he is. They went the half-mile in 47 (seconds) and Julien (Leparoux) thought they went in 50. He’s just a really talented horse.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux: “The last time I rode him he didn’t break good. This time I learned from that. I thought just be patient with him. The key for today was to let him alone. He relaxed beautifully. I tried to sit behind [Warrioroftheroses] but he wanted to go. He likes being out front looking at everything.”
(On scratches of Stanford and Page McKenney) “Looking at the way he ran today, he would have been on the lead anyway. It was nice. We’ll take easy wins when we can. At the half-mile, I looked and no one was coming – that was good. I looked around on the turn and still no one was there.”
Ahh Chocolate, winner of the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3)
Trainer Neil Howard: “I was thrilled. She’s such a nice filly. All of these races are so damned tough. It was an honest pace, she really dug in down the stretch. You’ve got to give it to Stoneway (Farm). That’s what they do, breed and race these kinds of horses. I love coming here, winning here is terrific. You know wha? I’m glad to win a maiden race, any race, so this is great. She’s pretty consistent.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.: “We had a beautiful trip. She left there on the button today and put us where we needed to be. I got a little nervous going around the second turn that the Asmussen filly (Super Majesty) would kick on, but when I nudged on my filly she went after it really nicely and finished it off great.
“I was about two lengths off of it on the outside. She’s such a big rangy filly that she’s better on the outside and getting a good rhythm about her.”
(On blood on right knee) “I don’t know what happened to her. She nicked a blood vessel up high above her knee somewhere. With her hot like that and her adrenaline running, the blood was pouring out pretty good. But the vet looked her over and it looked superficial. She felt good coming back, but I was just a little nervous because of the amount of blood she had. I don’t know where it would have happened, because she left there smoothly and never got bounced around at any point. But some way she came back nicked up.
“After the Falls City (G2) last year, she got a little break. She’s one of those fillies where it’s taken some races to get back to her true form. This was her third race off the layoff and she ran back to her form last fall.”
Lost Raven, winner of the Miss Preakness (G3)
Trainer Todd Pletcher: “I was a little concerned because she’s never been that far back in her career. I knew that 22 (seconds)-and-change at Pimlico is flying, so I was hoping the fractions were fast enough to allow her to come from behind.”
(Why started out in $50,000 maiden-claiming race?) “We took a little shot there and we were fortunate to get away with it. We felt there was a nice program of races for her in New York and Mike (Repole) prefers to keep most of his horses in New York. As long as we felt there were ample opportunities for her, we felt New York was a good place for her to spend the winter. She actually wintered very well. The team did a great job with her in New York. As you could tell today, she looks like she spent the winter in Florida or California. She has a great coat, her weight is good and she’s trained well and excelled in the program.”
(On Uncle Mo’s start as a stallion): “Like I’ve said all along, it’s really exciting for us to be associated with Uncle Mo, not only when he was racing but to see his stud career get off to this historic beginning. He just keeps doing great things. Today’s another example. This time it’s a graded-stakes filly sprinting. He’s proven he can do it all, from graded-stakes sprinting to the Kentucky Derby. It’s fun to see.”
Jockey John Velazquez: “She’s shown speed with a slow pace in New York. I knew there was a lot of speed in this race, some nice horses who had shown speed in the beginning of the race. I didn’t think she had the speed to go there. I didn’t want to be so far back but I asked her (coming) out of the gate, and she didn’t show the speed. So now I had to change what I wanted to do, just kind of bide my time and encourage her little by little and try to get a spot at the three-eighths pole. Once she got running, I was running out of goggles (because of dirt of them). I was getting a little desperate because I couldn’t see where I was going. I pulled the last goggle right before going to the quarter pole, and I saw a little seam and I got through there and then she came running. After that, it was all her.
“I’ve never been on her. She’s been in New York the whole time, so I never rode her and didn’t know much about her. The only thing Todd (Pletcher) told me is she tries really hard, and she showed up today.”
Ben's Cat photo by Ronnie Betor/Horsephotos.com