When Ben’s Cat began to slow down after his four-year run of winning the Parx Dash three times and the Turf Monster twice, with two seconds and a third thrown in for good measure, it was a record that figured to last for decades. It stood for just four years.
Ben’s final win at Parx was in the 2014 Dash when, after being last early, he made a heroic run in the final 50 yards to get up by a nose. Just as Ben finally began to show signs of age in 2015, Pure Sensation arrived for the Monster and won it by a nose. He won the Dash in 2016 and both the Dash and Monster in 2017. After finally losing for the first time at Parx in the 2018 Dash when he finished third, Pure Sensation returned for the Monster on Labor Day and the 7-year-old was ready.
Pure Sensation, who has been ridden in all his local starts by Parx Hall of Famer Kendrick Carmouche, broke on top from the rail, took challenges throughout the race, got his head in front past the eighth pole and was not going to let another horse go by, winning by a neck. So now it’s Ben Cat 5 and Pure Sensation 5 in the major grass sprints at Parx.
“They had a couple of issues with him last time leading into the Dash,” said Carmouche. “He came up a little short. We couldn’t get in the works that we wanted to with him.”
Like Ben’s Cat, Pure Sensation is a fighter.
“He loves fighting back,” Carmouche said. “When the horses came outside him at the three-sixteenths pole, I just had to gather him up and hold him together.”
In an annual tradition, Carmouche gave up the final day at Saratoga to ride at the track where he became a star.
“I love being here,” Carmouche said. “I love my New York circuit, but it’s always good to come home.”
Reserve Carmouche and Pure Sensation a spot for Labor Day 2019.
Carmouche nearly won both stakes on Labor Day, losing a stretch-long duel in the Greenwood Cup with favored War Story to You’re to Blame and very excited owner Gerald Bortolazzo, a.k.a. “Dr. B”, a retired ER doc from Atlanta who once ran a group of 800 doctors.
Dr. B’s horses had been close in stake after stake, but just couldn’t win one. The Greenwood Cup was his first.
“I think (trainer) Todd Pletcher was screaming so hard up in Saratoga to get that horse across the line,” Dr. B said when asked what made the difference.
When 2017 Parx Racing Horse of the Year The Man won the Banjo Picker Sprint for the second consecutive year, it was one of the highlights of PA’s Day at the Races on Sept. 1. With all the races for Pennsylvania-Breds and the total purses exceeding $1 million for the first time, it was a terrific advertisement for some of the best horses bred in the Commonwealth.
The Man began his career in California with trainer Bob Baffert, but after the horse missed nearly two years, Baffert, who also owns The Man with his wife Jill, sent the horse to John Servis at Parx. All The Man did in 2017 was go 6-for-6 and win $241,980. This year, The Man, after holding off stablemate Pop Keenan by a half length in the Banjo Picker, is 3-for-5 with earnings of $136,410.
“He just loves to win,” Servis said. “And he loves competition.”
Any instructions from the owner?
“I guess they were giving out awards for the best made-out horse so the kid had his tail all braided up,” Servis said. “Bob didn’t like that. He said, ‘I’m not too crazy about that; you’ve got to take that out.’ It looks better in the winner’s circle, though. I’ll tell you that.”