Winner of 26 Stakes, Ben’s Cat Was Incredible

Press Release

Wearing a bright orange shirt and helmet cover, Elizabeth Eckert went about her business as an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury Wednesday morning with a heavy heart.

It was only the evening before that Eckert, working for Leatherbury at Laurel Park since December, had heard the news about Ben’s Cat, the recently retired Mid-Atlantic legend who was euthanized as a result of complications from colic surgery at the age of 11.

She drove to work in her dark blue 1992 Chevrolet Z-28 adorned with tributes to Ben’s Cat. “R.I.P. Big Ben” was written across her windshield. Her side windows read, “The Cat!” while on the back window she wrote, “The Beast from the East. Rest Easy.”

Naturally, the lettering was done in orange to match the silks of Leatherbury’s The Jim Stable, for whom Ben’s Cat ran his entire 63-race career that included 32 wins, 26 stakes wins, and more than $2.6 million in purse earnings.

“Ben was an incredible horse. I was honored to ride him,” Eckert said. “He taught me how to better listen to my horses underneath me. To hear what was going on [with him] broke my heart. Even though I only knew him a short time I loved him like I knew him my whole life.

“The Leatherbury team took great care of him when he was here, and I gave him all my effort every ride,” she added. “I am happy to stand here today and say I was able to ride the beast of the east, Maryland’s great Ben’s Cat.”

“At the Preakness this year, Todd Pletcher said to me that other than the horses he trains himself, of course, Ben was his favorite horse of all time,” Trainer King Leatherbury said.

Leatherbury, 84, bred, owned and trained Ben’s Cat, retiring him on June 27 just three days after finishing ninth by 4 ½ lengths in the Mister Diz – a stakes the gelded son of Parker’s Storm Cat had won six straight years from 2010-15. He was sent to the Versailles, Ky. farm of Bayne and Christina Welker June 28 but developed colic that required surgery July 6 at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, where he was euthanized July 18 due to post-operative complications.

“I was devastated. We thought he was going to be all right,” Leatherbury said. “I thought he’d pull through, being Ben’s Cat. He’s used to winning, you know? To get that call saying he had gotten worse and they had to put him down, it broke my heart. I thought he would do it.

“It was a tragic ending to a magnificent horse,” he added. “Many times in a race I didn’t think he’d win and then he got up. I thought he was going to pull another one off, surviving, and he didn’t. It is a horrible thing for me and for all of his fans and for the horse, of course. It’s a shame.”

Ben’s Cat had his Mister Diz streak broken Aug. 20, 2016 by the unheralded John Jones, a 43-1 long shot racing first time off a $25,000 claim for trainer Lacey Gaudet, whose family has long been synonymous with Maryland racing.

“When John Jones won the Mister Diz, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I had just claimed this horse for $25,000 and he won a stake and it was my first stakes winner as a trainer. It was, ‘We just beat Ben’s Cat,’” Gaudet said. “You never wanted to see a horse like that get beat and even when it was you, it was overshadowed.

“Every morning you’d go to the racetrack and you’d see him sitting there for 15 or 20 minutes before he got going. For a long time Doug Leatherman was on him and every morning people would jog by and say, ‘Morning Doug. Morning Ben.’ It was like you always knew he was going to be there,” she added. “I cried when I found out. It’s just sad.”

Ben’s Cat had only six different riders through his lengthy career, but it was Julian Pimentel that got on him more than anyone. Pimentel was aboard in 41 of 63 starts, including 30 in a row from June 2012 to November 2015.

Together, Pimentel and Ben’s Cat won 22 races, 17 of them in stakes, topped by the 2013 and 2014 Parx Dash (G3), 2012 Turf Monster (G3), 2012 Maryland Million Turf Sprint, 2013-15 Mister Diz and Jim McKay Turf Sprint, and 2012-14 Fabulous Strike Handicap.

“At the beginning of his career he was a little difficult in the mornings to train and stuff like that. He was like a student with a lot of growing pains,” Pimentel said. “But as he got older he was just very cool. He knew what he was supposed to do. You look at his record and he’d win by a head or a nose – it was like he knew where the wire was.

“He could run pretty much on anything. He won on the slop, he won going short, he won going a mile,” he added. “Going long wasn’t his favorite distance but he did that a couple of times. He liked turf, dirt, the slop, it didn’t much matter to him. I think he would run on concrete. He was just unbelievable.”

Ben’s Cat’s last two victories came to start his 10-year-old season, taking an open 5 ½-furlong allowance last May before his fifth triumph in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. The closest he came to winning after that was in his 11-year-old debut, finishing fifth by less than a length in an April 16 allowance.

“At the Preakness this year, Todd Pletcher said to me that other than the horses he trains himself, of course, Ben was his favorite horse of all time,” Leatherbury said. “The thing is, you have good horses come along all the time but they don’t last. For him to last is where he created that ‘People’s Horse’ thing.

“A lot of horses are so good that they retire because of their value in the breeding industry, and others have problems that knock them out early. They run a couple years and that’s it,” he added. “But Ben, year after year after year he’d come back and that’s why he got that reputation. It is a sad end to the great Ben’s Cat.”

History: The Magnifica ‘Palio di Siena’ – Horse Races In Italy

The World’s Best Horse Race – Siena, Italy

Article By Kathleen Peddicord

No one knows for sure when it began or exactly why, but official record formalizes the event starting in 1310. By that time, it was already an institution. I’ve wanted to witness the spectacle firsthand since I learned of it more than 30 years ago.… [Read more…]

Trainer Dale Romans approaches Churchill Record for Wins

churchill downs ky derby dayLOUISVILLE, Ky . (WHAS11) – As he approaches Bill Mott’s all-time wins record at Churchill Downs, Dale Romans says there are tons of memories he’s had while being a part of barn 4. He says it’s kind of his identity at this point.

Source: Romans approaches Churchill wins record

Free Friday Admissions at National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

New Offer Starts Tomorrow, June 30, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, NY

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame will be offering free admission each Friday from 2 p.m. to close through the end of the year compliments of EMBRACE THE RACE®. “Free Fridays” begin June 30 and continue throughout the year, including the Saratoga Race Course meeting.

Animal Kingdom - Derby MuseumVisitors are invited to take advantage of the opportunity to explore all of the Museum’s offerings, including its newest exhibit, Man o’ War at 100, which chronicles the racing career and cultural impact of the 1957 Hall of Fame inductee.

“A core element of the EMBRACE THE RACE® mission is to invest in fan development. This innovative program from the Museum is a great way to help people connect with the history and passion that is the essence of horse racing,” said Michael F. DeAnzeris III, president and founder of EMBRACE THE RACE®. “There is no better way for fans to show their love of the sport than with clothing and accessories from EMBRACE THE RACE®. We are proud to be a founding partner of this great Museum program.”

The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is currently open from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From July 21 through Sept. 4 (Saratoga Race Course dates), the Museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are pleased to be partnering with EMBRACE THE RACE® on this initiative,” said Cathy Marino, the Museum’s director. “Like the Museum, EMBRACE THE RACE® is committed to developing new fans of the sport and supporting ideas related to that concept. They are an ideal partner for Free Fridays and we thank them for their participation.”

About EMBRACE THE RACE®: Founded and based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., EMBRACE THE RACE® is the exclusive provider of The Apparel for the Horse Racing Lifestyle® and The Official Apparel of Horse Racing®. Featuring an inspirational logo and impassioned phrase, EMBRACE THE RACE® captivates worldwide customers with luxurious clothes, accessories, jewelry and more. Shop today at, EMBRACE THE RACE® Company Store in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

The Queen, MC Hammer, and Bing Crosby’s Unlikely Shared Passion: Horse Racing

source: Royal Ascot

*Known as the “sport of kings”, horse racing has long been associated with the rich and famous. While in ancient times, the sport was run purely for the thrill of the competition, today, the spectacle of the occasion – and the betting involved – has …

Source: MC Hammer, the Queen and Bing Crosby’s Unlikely Shared Passion: Horse Racing

Is Horse Racing Dead? Golden Gate Field Reports Gains

Golden Gate Fields concluded its 99-day winter/spring meet on Sunday, June 18 with gains in both attendance and on-track handle. The Bay Area track was able to achieve these gains despite experiencing one of the wettest seasons to affect Northern California in years, with over 40 inches of rain recorded during the first part of the season. This is the first winter/spring meet since 2011 where attendance was up by 5.65% with on-track handle also increasing by 3.44%. The most notable change in attendance came from the popular Dollar Day Sundays which saw a 13% increase year-over-year.

“We are very happy with our loyal fans for braving the weather and supporting our live racing product. I look forward to seeing them again during our summer meet,” said Joe Morris, senior vice president of West Coast operations for the Stronach Group.

The leading trainer of the meet was John Martin with 62 wins, leading him to back-to-back winning trainer titles (Martin was the leading trainer of the 2016 fall meet at Golden Gate Fields). Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer came in second. The leading jockey for the winter/spring meet was Abel Cedillo with 89 wins.

“It was a long meet. I’ve just been working hard and running a lot of horses. I tried really hard to win it this time. I need a little bit of a rest now,” said trainer John Martin. 

“I learned a lot down at Santa Anita from great jockeys like Mike Smith and Kent Desormeaux. I’m just blessed I’m here. I’m getting great horses now and my agent, Roger Olguin, couldn’t be better,” said jockey Abel Cedillo.

Golden Gate Fields is set to open its doors for another exciting summer meet on Thursday, August 24. The brief summer race season will run through Sunday, September 17, with special holiday racing on Labor Day Monday, September 4. First post every race day is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. The summer meet will feature a Turf Festival during the last two weeks: September 8 to September 17, a time in which Golden Gate Fields will be the only track in California offering turf racing. The track will offer vanning and stabling incentives for horsemen looking to ship from Southern California. The Turf Festival will be highlighted by the $50,000 Rolling Green Stakes, which will be contested on the lakeside turf course at a distance of a mile and one-sixteenth.

Old Sports Spectrum / Louisville Downs to Become State-of-the-Art Facility

Churchill Downs Incorporated to Invest $60M into Louisville Location

“Stronger horse racing means a stronger Kentucky.”

Press Release

Churchill Downs Incorporated has announced it is investing approximately $60 million to construct a state-of-the-art historical racing machine (“HRM”) facility in Louisville. The 85,000-square-foot facility will be built at 4520 Poplar Level Road—Churchill Downs’ former Trackside (also known as the former Sports Spectrum) site, and conveniently located less than half a mile from the Poplar Level Road exit off the Henry Watterson Expressway (I-264). CDI’s request to offer exotic wagering on historical racing was conditionally approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission this afternoon.

“With a state-of-the-art facility and new, innovative historical racing machines, we will deliver an exciting and compelling product for our customers in Louisville. This is a great opportunity for us to revitalize another area of our city while strengthening the Commonwealth’s equine industry through larger purses and greater incentives for Kentucky breeders and owners,” Churchill Downs Race Track president Kevin Flannery said. “Stronger horse racing means a stronger Kentucky.”

historical racing facility

source: CDI

The company says the facility will create 450 new jobs for the local economy, including 250 construction jobs. An estimated 200 new full- and part-time jobs will be created to operate and manage the facility. Churchill Downs will hire both hourly and salaried employees in areas including operations, marketing, finance, food and beverage, maintenance, information technology, human resources, security and administration. Job fairs will be held at Trackside for the neighborhoods surrounding the facility and the Churchill Downs Race Track.

This announcement comes on the heels of CDI’s decision to relocate its business to Louisville from Silicon Valley, California, creating more than 70 high-tech, high-paying jobs for the city.

The planned facility will house two quick-service, walk-up food venues, as well as a bar with seating for 50 and large format televisions for guests to take in all the best sporting action year-round. The gaming area will open with 600 cutting-edge historical racing machines and a player’s club reward center offering special perks and benefits, including an exclusive parking area for loyal guests.

Construction is slated to begin later this year, and CDI hopes to open the facility by summer of 2018.

U.S. Trainer Wesley Ward is a man on a mission at Royal Ascot

It costs around US$30,000 (Dh110,200) to send a horse on the round trip from the United States to England for Royal Ascot. That sum puts into perspective quite how much a risk it was in 2009 when Wesley Ward came to Royal Ascot with a team of seven …

Source: Horse racing: Wesley Ward is a man on a mission at Royal Ascot

Secretariat and the Greatest Horse Racing Performace Ever

“It was like the Lord was holding onto the reins and Secretariat was one of his creatures.”

The Great Secretariat

The Great Secretariat. Photo by Rich Nilsen

His performance on the track in Elmira, New York, back in 1973 placed a close second behind basketball star Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game on ESPN’s “Who’s No. 1” list of greatest sports performances by individual athletes. It was that spectacular. Secretariat was the only athlete on that list with one name. And four legs. As we… [Read more…]

Former QB Jake Delhomme now calls shots in horse racing

LAFAYETTE, LA — Growing up it was always school, sports and horses for Jake Delhomme. Now that the other two are out of the way, thoroughbred horses still consume Delhomme’s interest as he plans to enter several from his Set Hut stables during the racing …

Source: Former quarterback Delhomme now calls shots in horse racing