Ben’s Cat and Mountain Dew, two remarkable geldings who put on a show year after year to the delight of their legions of fans, are the Maryland-bred Thoroughbred Hall of Fame 2023 inductees after a vote by a committee of Maryland racing industry members coordinated by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Racing Media Association.
During his eight years of competition, Ben’s Cat became a local legend and a national treasure. King T. Leatherbury’s nearly-black gelding, a son of Parker’s Storm Cat and Leatherbury’s homebred mare Twofox, didn’t make his first start until age 4 after suffering a broken pelvis at 2, for which he was stall-bound for six months. That only added to the lore.
By the time he retired in 2017, Ben’s Cat was the all-time leader among Maryland-breds by number of state-bred championship titles, 17 in all, including four consecutive for Horse of the Year. He recorded a state-bred record 26 stakes wins and had earnings of $2,643,782. He started eight times in the Mister Diz Stakes, winning six, won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on Preakness weekend five times, and was a multiple graded stakes winner while terrorizing turf sprinters on the East Coast. In 2017, he was awarded the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, chosen by voters from around the world.
“We are so proud that, with this year’s inductees, we are able to celebrate not only two of our most important Maryland-bred horses, but Maryland’s remarkable horsemen and the diversity of our sport that they represent,” said Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. “King T. Leatherbury and the Fisher family are great examples of the persistence and longevity that Maryland is known for.”
Janon Fisher Jr.’s Mountain Dew was a star foxhunter before switching to timber racing in the early 1960s. At age 6, the son of *Hunters Moon IV and Fisher’s homebred War Admiral mare Laelia launched a Maryland Hunt Cup career unequaled in longevity. In eight runnings, he recorded three Hunt Cup wins (1962, 1965 and 1967) with rider Janon Fisher III and was second to National Museum of Racing Hall of Famer Jay Trump in the 1963, 1964 and 1966 runnings. In his Hunt Cup debut in 1961 he finished third. When attempting a record fourth Hunt Cup win in 1968, he was injured at the 19th of 22 fences while leading (and continued on to jump the 20th fence while being pulled up).
Mountain Dew started 24 times in sanctioned timber races and never fell. In his only flat start (at 3) he exited with an injury. Mountain Dew holds the record of winning six Maryland Grand Nationals in eight starts and placing in the other two. After he recovered from his 1968 injury, he went back to life as a foxhunter.
“Our two newest inductees demonstrate both the depth and quality of Maryland breeding over the decades and its remarkable resilience to today,” said Maryland Racing Media Association president Frank Vespe. “It underlines what Ben’s Cat was able to accomplish, especially given his modest beginnings, that he is the first horse to conclude his career since the Hall of Fame’s creation to be inducted in his first year of eligibility."
This year’s inductees will be celebrated during a ceremony between races at Timonium Race Course on Saturday, Sept. 2.
Under the collaboration of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Racing Media Association, the Hall of Fame was initiated in 2013 as a means of celebrating the excellence of state-bred Thoroughbred horses and debuted with an inaugural class of 12. There are now 33 members. Ben’s Cat and Mountain Dew join MTHOF members Awad, Broad Brush, Caesar’s Wish, Challedon, Cigar, Concern, Conniver, Dave’s Friend, Deputed Testamony, Devil’s Bag, El Gran Senor, Find, Gallorette, Heavenly Cause, Jameela, J. O. Tobin, Kauai King, Little Bold John, Politely, Safely Kept, Smoke Glacken, Social Outcast, Star de Naskra, Twixt, Vertex, What a Summer and Youth and steeplechasers Elkridge, Good Night Shirt, Jay Trump and Tuscalee.
The newest honorees, with biographies, photos, videos and complete race records, will be showcased online at www.mdthoroughbredhalloffame.com.