Surrounded by family, friends, race officials and fans, legendary Hall of Famer King T. Leatherbury was celebrated Sunday at Laurel Park by the Maryland Jockey Club with a sign and a special etched crystal trophy to mark his 90th birthdayth Birthday.
Georganne Hale, the first woman to serve as race secretary at a major North American circuit when she was promoted to the position in 2000 by the MJC, who now serves as vice president of race development, made the presentation to Leatherbury in the winners’ circle after the seventh race on Sunday .
Named in Leatherbury’s honor, the optional seven rims senior filly and mare contender was won by 5-year-old filly Awesome View ($4.20) by Old Coach Farm & Larry Metz, the price favorite in a field of seven, ridden until winter meets leader Jaime Rodriguez for his third win of the afternoon.
Clips from a 30-minute interview with former Stakes Winner coach and current MJC Race Analyst and Compliance Officer Tim Tullock played throughout the afternoon.
“Thank you very much,” said Leatherbury, who turned 90 on Sunday, to the winners’ circle. “Have a nice day.”
After the ceremony, Leatherbury was serenaded in and around the winner’s circle with a version of “Happy Birthday.”
“[The fans] were very nice to me,” Leatherbury said. “I think the world of them.”
A Maryland native, Leatherbury won his first race in 1959 at Sunland Park, now Tampa Bay Downs. He won six races in a day one and five races in a day four times, recorded 300 or more wins from 1975 to 1978 and led the country in 1977 to 1978.
Leatherbury led all Maryland coaches in wins four straight years from 1993-1996 and owns or shares 26 practice titles at both Laurel Park and the historic Pimlico Race Course. He became only the third coach to have 6,000 career wins with Timonium in 2003 and is currently fifth overall with 6,508 wins.
The best horse of Leatherbury’s career was Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat, whom he bred, owned and trained to 32 wins, 26 stakes and more than $2.6 million in earnings over eight seasons from 2010-2017. Ben’s Cat died of complications from colic surgery in 2017 and his remains are buried next to Laurel’s historic paddock.
Other top horses Leatherbury has trained include Grade 1 winners Catatonic and Taking Risks, and Graded Stakes winners Ah Day, Thirty Eight Go Go, Learned Jake, Ameri Valay, Dynamic Trick, Thirty Eight Paces , I Am the Game, Do the Bump and Wait for the lady. Three times won and raced Leatherbury Port Conway Lane who won 52 of 242 starts between 1971 and 1983 and raced until he was 14 years old.
In 2015, Leatherbury was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, NY. As a member of the Anne Arundel County Hall of Fame, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
“A lot of good things have happened here,” Leatherbury said. “I had a good stable here when I was the country’s top coach and we have kept that stable running. All is well. I have no complaints about Laurel.”