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The celebration of the historic racing career of Ben’s Cat, and wishing for a long and happy retirement, has turned to heartbreak after King T. Leatherbury’s 11-year-old homebred gelding succumbed to complications from colic surgery on Tuesday, July 18, just 24 days after his final start.

The four-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year had undergone surgery on July 6 at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., to repair an epiploic foramen entrapment, about one week after entering retirement at Bayne and Chris Welker’s Spring Ridge Farm in Versailles, Ky.

Leatherbury told Joe Nevills of the Daily Racing Form: “I thought he had it licked. I was bragging on him so. I said, ‘Here’s a winner. He beat the odds.’ I’ve had it happen to a couple other horses and never had one survive. His granddam, it killed her. We had colic surgery done on her, and she died.

“It was devastating for me. It was a tragic end for a magnificent horse. It’s hard to talk about. It really hit me hard. I was hoping for a nice life for him after all the running he did.”

Over eight seasons, the son of Parker’s Storm Cat out of Twofox, by Thirty Eight Paces, won a Maryland-bred record 26 stakes; more than $2.6 million – the fifth-richest of among state-breds all time; captured 32 of 63 starts, and became one of the most popular horses to ever race in the region.

He took home a total of 17 Maryland-bred championship titles, the most of any Maryland-bred in history . In addition to his Horse of the Year trophies, he was five times Maryland-bred champion turf runner, four times champion older male and four-time champion sprinter. He won five different stakes three times or more, led by six wins in the Mister Diz Stakes and five Jim McKay Turf Sprints, the latter in front of a national audience on Preakness weekend.

Ben’s Cat’s final start came in the Mister Diz on June 24 over the Laurel turf course – his eighth time contesting the race – where he finished ninth, four and a half lengths behind the winner.

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