Meanwhile in … Pennsylvania: King Leatherbury strikes again – aged 87

Horse racing King Leatherbury
King Leatherbury with four-time Maryland horse of the year Ben’s Cat. Photo: Jon Kral

Veteran trainer hits the mark for 62nd year in a row

USA: The result of the opening race on Friday’s card [Sept 25] at Penn National may not have caused seismic tremors across the wider racing world.

After all, this was a lowly claimer for $10,000 horses at a track where even its most ardent fans would be forced to admit quality is rarely the watchword.

For the record, this one-mile turf race went by the book, with a 2½-length victory the favourite Paratycacacha under jockey Edwin Gonzalez.

However, the identity of the trainer involved was notable indeed – because Paratycacacha was the first winner of 2020 for his 87-year-old trainer King Leatherbury, which means the veteran has now trained a winner for each of the past 62 years.

Born in 1933, Maryland native Leatherbury’s first winner came in 1959 with Mister L. at Sunshine Park (now Tampa Bay Downs).

He won at least 100 races every season for 26 consecutive years from 1972 to 1997 – and at least 200 from 1974 to 1984, being the nation’s winningmost trainer in 1976 and 1977.

Leatherbury stands fifth on the US all-time list for career victories with 6,504; number one is the late Dale Baird with 9,445.

North American trainers by career wins
  1. Dale Baird 9,445
  2. Steve Asmussen* 9,020
  3. Jerry Hollendorfer* 7,667
  4. Jack van Berg 6,523
  5. King Leatherbury* 6,504
  6. Scott Lake* 6,121
  7. Bill Mott* 5,038
  8. Todd Pletcher* 4,982
  9. D Wayne Lukas* 4,840
  10. Richard Hazelton 4,745

*still active; statistics courtesy of Equibase, correct as end of September 28

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, Leatherbury has been dubbed a ‘Maryland racing legend’ – perhaps because he has won 26 training titles at both Laurel and Pimlico.

Ben’s Cat, his latterday hero, was named Maryland horse of the year four times as he amassed a career record of 32 wins from 63 starts, including 26 stakes.

Speaking to journalist Tom Pedulla for the America’s Best Racing website, Leatherbury revealed how he’d like his epitaph to read.

“If I wanted something on my tombstone,” he said, “it would just be: ‘He won races.’ ”

Even if Leatherbury’s operation is rather diminished these days, plainly he’s not ready to stop just yet.

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