leader of the band wins monmouth oaks

By Dick Jerardi

When Will Schwartz (SMD Limited) claimed Catsuit for $32,000 on May 25, 2004, at Parx, he was not really claiming her to race. He was hoping she would make a good broodmare. She has better than good, culminating on the last Saturday afternoon of July at Monmouth Park.

That claim came full circle when Catsuit’s 3-year-old daughter Leader of the Band, owned and bred in Pennsylvania by Schwartz, stormed past favored front runner Edie Meeny Miny Mo to win the $250,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks at 10-1.

The filly was ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Frankie Pennington. It was his seventh graded stake winner and 2,694th win of his career. Back in 2004, Catsuit was ridden in the final three races of her career by a 5-pound apprentice with fewer than 100 wins. That would also be Frankie Pennington.

Frankie did not remember riding Catsuit. Nor did Will remember him riding her in her only start for him before he retired her. Neither will forget the 2021 Monmouth Oaks.

“She was stretching out nice, really picked it up,’’ Pennington said. “She really seems to love the two turns.’’

The Oaks was Parx Hall of Fame trainer John Servis’s 33rd graded stakes win and 1,886th of his marvelous career. His horses have earned nearly $64 million.

“Since that Delaware race (third in the Grade III Delaware Oaks), she’s been training lights out,’’ Servis said.

Servis-trained fillies actually ran first and third in the Oaks as Midnight Obsession (Main Line Racing Stable) put pressure on the leader before tiring late to settle for third.

Servis has trained several offspring of Catsuit, including a horse named Ill Conceived that won $160,332. The horse’s name came about because Catsuit was actually bred to the wrong stallion after two halters were mixed up at a farm. Schwartz was notified of the mistake by the Jockey Club after a DNA test. That turned out okay too.

In fact, Servis thought the horse had won the 2012 Battaglia Memorial (a Kentucky Derby prep race) at Turfway Park until they posted the photo that said he was second.

 “I was walking down to the winner’s circle,’’ Servis said, “Graham Motion won the race. I couldn’t believe they put his horse up.’’

No photo was needed Saturday. Leader of the Band won by a decisive two lengths. The $150,000 first prize from the Oaks pushed her earnings to $264,540. Next up, the filly will be able to run right out of her Parx stall in the Aug. 24 Cathryn Sophia, named for the Servis trained Kentucky Oaks winner.

“John Servis is a great trainer,’’ Pennington told the Monmouth Park publicity department. “He does such a great job. He told me before the race how good she was doing…Anytime he says that I feel very confident when I ride for him.’’

Catsuit’s foals have now won more than $800,000. Not bad for a $32,000 claim.

“At that time, I was just starting to get into a little pedigree analysis,’’ Schwartz said. “It looked to me like they were protecting her. For a while, I kept my eyes on her. When they dropped her in for 32 which back then was a pretty serious number…’’

It was a serious number. Catsuit has foaled horses that have produced even more serious numbers. And Leader of the Band has already produced the most serious numbers of all the mare’s offspring.

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