Nonetheless, the backbone of American racing lies elsewhere, among the lesser horses who fill out the bulk of racing cards on a daily basis. Most of them never make any headlines. The few that do earn a fan base do it the hard way: not by bursts of brilliance in front of television audiences and filled stands at major racing events, but by consistently doing the ordinary in extraordinary fashion.
Maryland hero Ben's Cat is such a horse. While the gelded son of Parker's Storm Cat has more talent than the average blue-collar runner---he has four Grade III wins among his 31 career victories---he has no pretenses of being one of the great ones. To his fans, he is one of their own, knocking out an honest living day after day and year after year. He may not always win, but he's always in there trying, and that's been good enough to get him four titles as Maryland's Horse of the Year in six seasons of racing.
Now 10 years old and still winning (he scored his first victory of 2016 earlier today), the Cat is well matched with his equally ageless trainer, 83-year-old King Leatherbury. A fixture on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, Leatherbury was admitted to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame based on a career which, like that of Ben's Cat, has been built race by hard-knocking race--- well over 35,000 so far. He's one of only four American trainers to reach 6,000 career wins, and he hit that milestone nearly 13 years ago. And he's done all that without the support of the high-flying owners and breeders who drive the national leader boards; he's a Maryland trainer, training mostly for Maryland people.
Neither Leatherbury nor the Cat can go on forever. The wear and tear of the years is there, and sooner or later, their fans will have to say goodbye. But, God willing, it will be a while yet before the Cat and the King have to say their farewells to a sport they both so clearly love.