Made Bail holds off all challengers, including Ben’s Cat (#1) to win at Laurel Park
Susan Cooney-owned and -trained gelding Made Bail took the lead after a half-mile and held off late bids from four horses in the stretch, including 26-time stakes winner Ben’s Cat in his 11-year-old debut, to capture Sunday’s featured seventh race allowance at Laurel Park.
Ben’s Cat, racing for the first time since finishing last of six in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap Oct. 22, was unable to find running room until the final furlong, when he surged along the inside under regular rider and meet-leading jockey Trevor McCarthy.
The four-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, multiple Grade 3 winner and earner of more than $ 2.6 million in lifetime purses was beaten just three-quarters of a length in his 61st career start. He is bred, owned and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, who hopes to use the race as a springboard to the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 19 at historic Pimlico Race Course, a race he has won four straight years and five of the last six.
“He broke really sharp for me today and I expected that, just because he’s been so sharp and coming off that layoff. He had a good trip, it’s just a shame out of the one-hole it’s kind of a disadvantage sometimes on grass,” McCarthy said. “We just didn’t get through until late but I thought it definitely was a good performance by him. It will set him up really good for the Jim McKay.
“It’s a shame he didn’t get out a little sooner because I really think he would have gotten the money today. He didn’t get beat very far,” he added. “He definitely had good run in the final furlong, and that was the most important thing. I just wanted to see him run a good race today, even if he got beat or didn’t get through until late. I’m really happy with his performance. I just can’t wait until the Jim McKay because I think he’ll run very good in that spot.”
Made Bail ($ 49.80), the longest shot in a field of seven at 23-1 for his first race since late November, ran 5 ½ furlongs over a firm Kelso Turf Course in 1:02.70 to finish a nose in front of filly Elusive Joni.
Grandiflora was third by another head and it was a half-length back to narrow favorite winner Sonny Inspired, whose belated rally on the far outside got him to the wire a head in front of Ben’s Cat in fifth. Triple Burner and Grand Old Game completed the field.
“I couldn’t tell. I was just praying – he’s got that big ol’ jughead – that that would be enough. He’s got a Standardbred head on him almost,” Cooney said. “He likes this track and he’s always good off the layoff. He ran a really good race last fall before we put him away for the winter.
“He’s fresh and he’s been training great, and I liked him in there,” she added. “They were all nice horses, but I knew he could run with them. He’s better than his record looks. He’s drawn a lot of bad post positions and he’s had a lot of bad racing luck. He should have more wins than he does.”
Ben’s Cat broke sharply from his rail post and settled on the inside as Triple Burner spend through an opening quarter-mile in 22.77 seconds with Made Bail to his outside and Grand Old Game and Elusive Joni tracking in behind.
Jockey Alex Cintron took Made Bail to the lead following a half in 45.31 and turned for home in front as Elusive Joni and Grandiflora mounted a challenge down the center of the stretch. Sonny Inspired, who hopped at the start and was last at the head of the lane, closed steadily on the far outside.
“It was a great trip. My horse broke really sharp and turning for home I felt like I had a ton of horse,” Cintron said. “My horse hung a little bit before the first wire and I thought maybe he was getting tired a little bit from the first race off the layoff, but when he felt the horses coming to him he kind of wake up again and gave me a second gear. He really surprised me the way he did that and won the race.”
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