Laurel News and Notes

Laurel News and Notes

Ben’s Cat and King Headed To Parx Dash (G3)
Cornhusker Next for Page McKenney (G3)


LAUREL, MD., 06/18/15– In case trainer King Leatherbury needed any reminder of the popularity of his 9-year-old gelding Ben’s Cat, it came recently in the form of a package to the barn.

“I just got a bucket full of horse cookies - It costs about $50 for these cookies,” Leatherbury said. “The woman’s name was on the bucket and so I called and I asked, ‘Do I know you?’ And she said ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well then what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I’m just a big fan of Ben.’ ”

"He’s probably the most famous horse in this area that there’s ever been,” said Leatherbury, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most famous horseman and an inductee to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. “For one thing, not only is he exciting to watch, but he’s lasted so long that it gives people a chance to know him."

The graded-stakes winning Ben’s Cat, bred by Leatherbury and a winner of 29 of 48 races and $2.4 million, shows no sign of slowing down. His winning performance May 15 on Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico in the Turf Sprint Handicap shook the building. He followed that up with a gutsy second-place finish, beaten a nose, in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup May 30 despite not getting the best of trips.

Leatherbury called the Governor’s Cup a “heartbreaker.”

“I really expected to win so it was a little disappointing,” he said. “But he ran a dynamite race and he didn’t get a very good trip. In fact, the races he usually gets beat in, he doesn’t get a good trip.”

Ben’s Cat, who has placed first, second or third in 41 of his 48 races, came out of the Governor’s Cup well and is now being pointed toward the $200,000 Parx Dash (G3) July 11, a race he won last year.

Under Leatherbury’s shedrow, Ben’s Cat continues to love his work.

“In fact, the exercise boy who’s been on him ever since he first came to the track keeps saying he’s better than ever,” Leatherbury said. “He appears to be in the best shape to have a good 9-year-old season.”



Another local Maryland-based star, Page McKenney is also scheduled to hit the road. The multiple-stakes winner, claimed for $16,000 two years ago by his current owners and trainer Mary Eppler, is headed to Prairie Meadows and the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (G3) Saturday, June 27.

The Cornhusker will be Page McKenney’s first start since finishing second May 15 in the Pimlico Special (G3) behind the graded-stakes winner Commissioner. The gelding previously finished third April 18 in the Charles Town Classic (G2). Eppler said the 5-year-old came out of the Pimlico Special fine with the exception of a cut on the back of his left ankle.

"He hit it coming out of the gate at Charles Town but all he did was knock the hair off," she said. "He must have hit it again in the Pimlico Special. When he came back it was bleeding. Back at Parx he stumbled leaving the gate and hit himself in front, and those are the only three times he's really done that."           

Eppler said the ankle has fully healed and she's looking forward to the Cornhusker. When asked about Page McKenney's performance this year, which includes victories at Laurel in the Harrison Johnson Memorial and John B. Campbell, Eppler said; "I wish I had more like him."

"He just has such a huge heart," she added. "He doesn't care who he runs against. I was looking at the field for the Pimlico Special and those horses were huge, and then there's little Page. He doesn't care, he just tries. And he's a fun horse to be around because he's no trouble. He's easy to train and I think he just really loves being at the racetrack. He's in the first stall at the barn and he can see the racetrack. He just stands in the front of his stall and watches the horses train. He just loves the atmosphere."