Ben's Cat, the Maryland-bred thoroughbred who won 32 races and was
, died July 18 when he suffered complications from surgery and was euthanized.
The 11-year-old dark bay gelding, a four-time Maryland Horse of the Year, underwent colic surgery July 6 to repair an epiploic foramen entrapment at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky., according to published reports. The condition is described as a cause of small intestinal strangulation in horses, according to online explanations of the condition.
Complications arose during his recovery.
Ben's Cat had retired to a Kentucky farm in June after one of his admirers, Chris Welker, asked to care for him. When he was campaigning, Ben's Cat was owned and trained by King Leatherbury.
Ben's Cat's last race was in the Mister Diz Stakes at Laurel Park June 24, where he finished back in the pack.
During the course of an illustrious career, Ben's Cat was one of Maryland's most beloved horses. He starred in turf sprints and dominated in those types of races at Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course and even at out-of-state tracks such as Parx in Pennsylvania.
He won the Mister Diz Stakes at Laurel six straight years from 2010 through 2015. He finished first in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico five times, the most recent in a breathtaking late burst to the wire in 2016. That Jim McKay triumph in 2016 was Ben's Cat's last trip to the winner's circle.
Over the course of nearly eight years -- an eternity in horse racing -- Ben's Cat compiled a sterling record despite a dubious start to his career. He broke his pelvis as a 2-year-old and didn't start racing until he was a 4-year-old.
Ben's Cat won his first race at Pimlico and his career skyrocketed. He went to the starting gate 63 times, compiled a 32-9-7 record with 26 wins coming in stakes races and won $2.6 million in purse money.
Longtime trainer Leatherbury, 84, credited Ben's Cat with propelling him to a Hall of Fame career and rightly attributed the dark bay's popularity to the horse's longevity.
Typically in racing, fans get to know winning horses only briefly before those four-legged stars leave the spotlight, but Ben's Cat continued to perform race-after-race, year-after-year.
Just after she took over the care of Ben's Cat, Welker expressed optimism that he would live a long life in retirement at the farm in Versailles, Ky.
On the Paulick Report, a horse racing website, Welker described the sadness of Ben's Cat's death, saying, "My heart is shattered, not only for Ben, but for Mr. Leatherbury, the team who took care of him day in and day out for years and the fans who loved him."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club