Jim McKay’s Maryland Million Preview: Ben’s Cat – Turf or Dirt?

October 17, 2013 | Gary Quill

Introduced in 1986, the Maryland Million, a program of races restricted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions, has been duplicated by more than 20 other states. Maryland-sired thoroughbreds are nominated before they become 2-year-olds and remain eligible for life to run in the Maryland Million races. After twenty-seven runnings, more than 220 stallions have been represented in Maryland Million races.

Thanks to Jim McKay’s love of his home state and thoroughbred horse racing, Maryland breeders have one day a year that they can stand proud and potentially pickup a few new clients. McKay originally proposed the concept and remained Chairman of the Board until his death five years ago. Twenty-two times attendance figures have topped 20,000 for the event.

Twenty-seven horses have won more than one Maryland Million event. Nine former winners are entered Saturday, including five runners looking for back-to-back scores: Action Andy (Sprint), Roadhog (Turf), Pagan Priestess (Ladies), Varborough (Starter Handicap), Motherload Hipster (Distaff Starter Handicap).

Only five (5) runners have won three (3) times on Million Million Day… Safely Kept  Distaff-1989-90-91), Countus In (Ladies-1989-90-91), Mz. Zill Bear (Ladies-1993-94-95), Docent (Sweepstakes-2001 & Classic-2002-03) and Ben’s Cat (Turf Sprint-2010-2011-2012).

Ben’s Cat has a chance to move into the record books. Owner/trainer King T. Leatherbury cross-entered the 7-year-old son of Parker’s Storm Cat into both the $125,000 Turf and $100,000 Sprint.

Leatherbury said Thursday morning the decision would go “down to the wire” (he’s expected to decide by Friday afternoon), but may have tipped his hand adding, “A mile is not my choice. If I was writing the race myself it would strictly be sprints. He’s won distance races but they weren’t impressive. He just won them. It wasn’t one of those wows.”.

The first 4,000 full-paid admissions and Maryland-licensed owners and trainers will each receive a free Maryland Million Sport Cap. On-track entertainment between races will include two pony races, Suttler Clydesdales, Goshen Foxhounds, Great Falls Vaulters and Special Olympics Maryland and a visit from Joey of War Horse fame, brought to life by puppeteers. What?! No wiener (Dashsund) dog races?

Party at the Park, located trackside in Paddock Park, will feature food truck fare, a full bar cornhole as well as Jeremy Plonk and Brian Nadeau from Horse Player Now’s Night School providing expert analysis of the card.

HRTV will have a live presence for the entire card with hosts Caton Bredar and Dick Jerardi on site. First post for Saturday’s 11-race program is 12:15 p.m. EDT at Laurel Park.

A few weeks ago, Jose Villegas, an exercise rider at Laurel Park was involved in a training accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down. With the local horse racing focus on Maryland Million Day, Frank Vespe founder of The Racing Biz website spearheaded an online handicapping contest to help Jose and his family.

Please join me as there’s a voluntary/optional $5 contribution to participate. Click HERE for more information.

It’s a beautiful day to go to lovely Laurel Park and celebrate this rich thoroughbred horse racing tradition in Maryland. Good Luck!