Local training legend King T. Leatherbury has a diamond in the rough, but doesn’t want to pay a gemologist to appraise it. This may be a poor comparison to Leatherbury balking at ponying up the $100k Supplemental Nomination Fee for Ben’s Cat to run in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 5th. The deadline for supplemental entries is Oct. 24th.
On September 5th, The Jim Stable’s Ben’s Cat booked a starting berth into the November 5 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs when he rallied late to nail Perfect Officer by a half-length in Parx Racing’s Grade 3, $356,000 Turf Monster Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” Challenge race. But the 5-year-old gelded son of Parker’s Storm Cat was never nominated to the Breeders’ Cup. Hence, in order to run on thoroughbred horse racings biggest stage, Leatherbury who also owns Ben’s Cat would have to supplement him to the tune of $100k.
King immediately began to sound like Robert Preston’s character, Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” attempting to convince everyone that the only way he could get to the Breeders’ Cup was if an investor put up the $100k. In return, the investor would receive 100% of the purse earned by Ben’s Cat up to the original investment ($100k) plus 50% of any purse money over $100k.
Here are the details of the race. There will be 11-14 starters going 5 furlongs on the turf. The winner will earn $600k, the runner-up $200k while $100k goes to the third-place finisher. Those who finish off the board get a check for a couple thousand dollars (i.e. a parting gift).
On the surface it appears to be a pretty risky investment, but consider this… based on the early list of possible starters, Ben’s Cat ranks among the Top 5, maybe even Top 3. The horse he beat on September 5th (Perfect Officer) came back to run second on the Keeneland turf course against a strong group of Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint hopefuls. Ben’s Cat recently won the Maryland Million Turf Sprint (October 1st), but over much weaker competition.
My take is that Mr. Leatherbury has forgotten more about horse racing than I have learned in my 40+ years of closely following the sport. He’s a very wise horseman who has trained his fair share of “good ones”. Ben’s Cat is one of them, but must have at least some question marks associated with either his health and/or ability to go against the very best who compete on the grass at a distance of 5/8 of a mile. If not, the supplemental fee check would have been in the mail by now.
Finally, $100k is a big number, but under the enhanced conditions of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, Ben’s Cat will have his $30,000 Turf Sprint entry fee paid for and his connections will receive $10,000 in travel expenses, provided he is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by October 24. So in reality, IF the horse was already BC nominated but hadn’t won the BC Challenge race on September 5th, ownership would be looking at approximately $40k in entry fee and travel expenses, just to get his name into the Post Position Draw and hopefully into the starting gate on November 5th.
Jockey Jeremy Rose would get the mount on Ben’s Cat, who has won 13-of-18 lifetime starts, including seven other ungraded stakes.