Legendary trainer King Leatherbury has seen his share of races, but that doesn't mean he doesn't get nervous when he's watching one of hishorses being challenged down the stretch.
"I was a little bit concerned when the six horse dug in," Leatherbury said after accepting the crystal bowl won by Ben's Cat as the repeat winner of the Maryland Million Turf Sprint on Saturday. "But Jeremy Rose [Ben's Cat's jockey] wasn't worried. He said we had it all the way."
Leatherbury worried because Steady Warrior refused to give up and challenged all the way around the track. Ben's Cat won by a length in 1:06.07 and paid $3 as the 1-to-2 betting favorite. Heaven's Voice finished third, 10 lengths back.
Ben's Cat came in to the Sprint — which was run over 5 1/2 furlongs on Laurel Park's turf course — with a target on his back. The son of Parker's Storm Cat had won the Grade III Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing (Pa.) on Labor Day, which carried with it an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup $1 million Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
There is still a question as to whether Ben's Cat will compete at the Breeders' Cup. Because he wasn't nominated as a foal, Leatherbury — the horse's the breeder, owner and trainer — will have to raise a $100,000 supplemental entry fee.
Leatherbury said he will "get more serious now about seeing what we can do."
"[Ben's Cat] is one of the three besthorses I've ever ridden," said Rose, who rode 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex. "He definitely deserves a shot at the Breeders' Cup."
Sloane Ranger sprints to win
Sloane Ranger, bred and owned by Vicki Schowe dashed Regal Solo's plans to become the first horse in Maryland Million competition to win three different races.
Sloane Ranger, another son of Parker's Storm Cat, won the Million Sprint by a half-length over Regal Solo, who won last year's Classic and had also won the Nursery in 2007. Sloane Ranger clocked a time of 1:10.15 over the six furlongs in the rain. He paid $6.60. Sandbagin' Lover was third, less than a length behind.
Not For Love takes the lead
Coming into Saturday, Not For Love had sired 21 winners (out of 147 starters) in the last eight years, trailing only the late Allen's Prospect (22 winners out of 156 starters) for the all-time lead in Maryland Million victories.
Not For Love's offspring didn't waste time in claiming the top spot for their sire.
Brushed By Love won the Million Oaks, the first race on the card, and Eighttofasttocatch won the Million Classic, the 10th race. In between, Love's Blush won the Million Ladies and Love That Dane won the Million Distaff.
Besides Not For Love, and Parker’s Storm Cat (who had two winners with Ben’s Cat and Sloane Ranger), five other stallions sired winners in yesterday’s Million Races. Partner’s Hero (Pocket Patch in the Turf), Great Notion (Glib in the Nursery), Two Punch (Bluegrass Atatude in the Lassie), Lion Hearted (Call of a Lion in the Distaff Starter Handicap) and Mojave Moon (Shordawatyadrink in the Starter Handicap).