11/26/2013 3:02PM

Dick Jerardi: Keefe’s training regimen goes beyond just horses

Barbara D. Livingston
Tim Keefe will compete in his second triathlon to raise money for charities on Dec. 1 in Cozumel, Mexico.

Laurel Park-based trainer Tim Keefe, who has done such a great job with Eighttofasttocatch, is flying from Baltimore to Cancun on Thanksgiving morning with his wife and four children. On Dec. 1, the 46-year-old will compete in the Ironman Cozumel, a full triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile marathon). He has teamed with the Ulman Cancer Fund and the Foxie G Foundation in a fundraising effort. Tax-deductible donations can be made by going to www.timkeeferacing.com.

This is the trainer’s second triathlon for charities. In September 2011, Keefe went for the Revolution3 Triathlon in Ohio.

“The Ulman Cancer Fund is a great local group which raises money for young adults afflicted with the disease,” Keefe said. “Thoroughbred retirement is also very important to me. This is a way to raise awareness to folks trying to do great things that people don’t hear about.”

This will not be Keefe’s last fundraiser/athletic competition.

“Fundraising is important to me, and I would like to continue, whether it is another triathlon or just a marathon,” Keefe said. “I like challenging myself physically and mentally, and this is a way to accomplish both of those things.”

Keefe has been training for 20 years. With nearly 3,000 starts by his horses, he has never had a positive drug test. Celtic Innis was his first big horse. The sprinter won five stakes and nearly $650,000. The amazing 7-year-old Eighttofasttocatch, who this fall won his second Maryland Million Classic and third Jennings Handicap, has earned more than $850,000 and might make his final start of 2013 in the Dec. 7 Broad Brush Stakes at Laurel.

“I am not positive,” Keefe said. “I like to space races out for him and be patient, which has kept him around in the condition he is. I want to make sure he is good to go for next year . . . If I were a trainer competing against him, you are damned if you do or damned if you don’t. If you don’t go with him, he is going to go 48 for a half-mile and have plenty left in the tank. If you go with him and make him go a little quicker, he is still going to be able to finish and you are going to be cooked. This is probably the best he has ever been, and I am very fortunate to have him.”

Training horses and training for an Ironman make for a rather busy schedule.

“I chose this particular venue because it fit the best timeline,” Keefe said. “With the kids, summer time is always hard to get away and prepare for a race like this. I try to schedule my training around the races. On Sunday, I try to take off from the barn, get up early, and do my long run. We are dark Tuesday, so I go down to Cambridge [on Maryland’s Eastern Shore] for a 100-mile bike ride. It is flat and simulates the course in Cozumel.”

Keefe finished his first triathlon in 11 hours 42 minutes.

“I would like to have a better time, maybe close to 11 hours, but I don’t know how the temperature is going to affect me,” Keefe said. “I don’t do great in the heat but I feel really good. Two years ago, I came into the race with a problem in my right leg and didn’t run well, so I am hopeful to beat my time.”

Losing one of the good guys

If you spent any time at Parx Racing, you knew Sonny Venziale. In fact, if you spent time at Saratoga or Gulfstream Park, chances are you knew Sonny. If the horses were running, he was there, betting and telling stories.

He grew up in Northeast Philly and it was in his neighborhood church where his friends celebrated his life a month ago. Sonny, who had been battling cancer, died of a heart attack in Florida on Oct. 24.

He had a morning duty every day at Saratoga. He was there when the gates opened to put down the tablecloth on the picnic table in the backyard. It will be not be the same in 2014 without Sonny.

Montano out injured

Jose Montano, the 2012 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s best apprentice jockey, has been out since breaking a leg in early October, according to Erich Zimny, vice president of racing operations at Charles Town. Montano, the leading rider at Charles Town, had 225 wins last year and was dominating the Charles Town standings again this year with 198 wins when he was hurt.

Cora closing on $3 million at Penn

Jockey David Cora (163 wins) is 40 wins clear of second-place Dana Whitney in the Penn National competition heading toward December. He is closing on $3 million in earnings just at Penn in 2013.