LAUREL, MD. 10-01-11---Sylvia E. Heft’s Eighttofasttocatch won just as an odds-on favorite should, running down the speed and bounding away to victory in the $150,000 Classic, the feature race contested under rainy conditions on Jim McKay Maryland Million day at Laurel Park.
The Maryland Million is the most important racing day at Laurel Park with 11 races for runners sired by Maryland-based stallions for combined purses totaling $1.05 million. The 26th annual event drew a crowd of 20,907 Saturday afternoon. Attendance figures have exceeded 20,000 on twenty-two occasions.
Jockey Sheldon Russell was at the controls as yet another Not For Love offspring captured yet another race on Maryland’s Day at the Races. It was also the second year in a row that Russell had won the Classic. Last year he guided Regal Solo to victory in the Million’s signature race.
“The key is to get him to relax,” said Russell. “Mud doesn’t bother him because he’s run well on it before. I was a little concerned because the speed horse didn’t break, but it worked out. I got him to switch off and then he came back running. I was lucky that way. Since they’ve taken the blinkers off of him he’s been very hard to beat.”
Tim Keefe trains Eighttofasttocatch, who has won seven times at Laurel including the Japan Racing Association Stakes in his previous start. The 5-yearold gelding, who was bred by Dark Hollow Farm & Herringswell Stable, paid $3.60.
“This was our ‘A’ race,” said Keefe. “He’s been training like a good horse. We’ve worked hard on getting him to track the speed and today that turned out perfect. The five post didn’t hurt us either. He really finished down the lane. This horse loves Laurel Park. The older gets the better he’s become.”
Jorge Chavez sent Regal Warrior out to an uncontested lead in the 1-1/8th mile test, leading by as much as six lengths before Eighttofasttocatch began to close in on his target. Regal Warrior surrendered the lead, Eighttofasttocatch moved to the fore and drifted out before being straightened away to win by 1-3/4 lengths. Cactus Charlie finished second and Not Abroad was third.
“When I asked him at the half-mile pole he came again and just down the lane was just wandering,” added Russell. “He had every right to get tired. As soon as he felt those horses coming on the outside he gave me another gear. He likes to run like three lengths off the pace. If I can get him five off the pace, that’s even better.”
Introduced in 1986, the Maryland Million has been duplicated by 22 other states. Hall of Fame TV Broadcaster Jim McKay originally proposed the Maryland Million concept and remained the Chairman of the Board until his death on June 7, 2008.
Not For Love led all stallions this afternoon with four winners from 22 starters. The son of Mr. Prospector, who stands at Northview Stallion Station, is Maryland’s highest ranking stallion for the ninth consecutive year. Progeny of Not For Love have captured 25 Maryland Million races in the last nine years from 169 starters, which also included four victories in 2009. Allen’s Prospect had topped both categories: 22 wins and 156 starters before today’s card.
Reprinted from Maryland Jockey Club.