Julian Pimentel kept Ben's Cat under a snug hold until a furlong from home, then signaled for him to go and spurted away to win the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes, the first of three stakes races Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.
This was the fifth year in a row that the King Leatherbury homebred has won the Mister Diz. Hall of Famer Kelso won the Jockey Club Gold Cup five straight times (1960-64).
Making his season debut, the 8-year old son of Parker's Storm Cat covered the 5-furlong distance over the good turf in 1 minute, 1.75 seconds. He won by 13/4lengths over Sonny Inspired, while Relentless Move finished another length back in third.
"The horse outside of us [Relentless Move] wanted to go, so we just stayed with him," Pimentel said. "We didn't have a plan. I always just let him do his thing. He seems to know what to do and when to do it. He is as good now as he has ever been."
The gelding has amassed more than $500,000 in earnings for three consecutive years and ranks eighth on the all-time Maryland-bred list with $1,907,640. He is now 25-for-38 lifetime with 20 stakes victories. Pimentel has been aboard for 17 of the wins.
"It's an amazing thing. This horse is better than ever. I've run out of material talking about him," Leatherbury said. "His disposition is very mild but he's started to show more fire the last year or so."
Leatherbury said Ben's Cat will make his next start in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on Black-Eyed Susan Day, a race he won in 2011 and 2013.
"This is the best he has ever been coming back off his winter layoff," said Avon Thorpe, Leatherbury's assistant. "He is training better than ever before. I am expecting a really big year."
•Embarr took the lead in mid-stretch and went all-out at the end to win the $100,000 Dahlia Stakes for fillies and mares for the second straight year. Embarr beat CC Gold by a head, covering a mile in 1:45.45.
•Aunt Ellen earned her first victory in 11career starts, rallying from last place to take the 11/16-mile $75,000 Twixt Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies by a head in 1:49.39.