10/21/2014 11:44AM

Jerardi: Fondness remains for veterans that keep winning

Coady Photography
Russell Road wins the West Virginia Breeders' Classic on Oct. 18 at Charles Town.

I am absolutely a sucker for old horses that win no matter the obstacles. I got my start at the Maryland tracks in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Anybody with a long memory will remember a horse named Jet Again who ran in low-level claiming races. He saved me from myself at Bowie on more days than I can remember. Every Saturday one year at Laurel, Elevate would appear in the last race, a starter handicap. They kept giving him more weight. I kept betting more money. And we both kept winning.

So how could you not love last Saturday at Laurel Park and Charles Town where we got to see Ben’s Cat, Eighttofasttocatch, Down Town Allen, and Russell Road? When the night ended in West Virginia, those four horses had three more stakes wins and 95 total wins for their careers. And if you add up their ages, it would be 31.

Think about that for a second. Seriously, five wins shy of 100 for just four horses. And none of them is winning cheap claiming races.

Ben’s Cat was the only one of the four that did not win on Saturday, but Ben’s Cat absolutely ran a winning race, knocking out two-time defending Maryland Million Turf winner Roadhog with a sustained show of speed and toughness before being run down late by Talk Show Man at a mile, a distance that is far from his best. Worry not for Ben’s Cat, who may have only three wins this year, but was unlucky not to win two more. He is 27 for 44 lifetime with $2.2 million in earnings. The soon-to-be 9-year-old is definitely not through winning.

Eighttofasttocatch, another 8-year-old, won the Maryland Million Classic for the third time. You have got to love how trainer Tim Keefe got his horse of a lifetime to the race. Eighttofasttocatch did not race from December until September when he ran in a grass race. Six weeks later, the fans knew. They bet Eighttofasttocatch down to 3-5 in the Classic, and the race was essentially over when he cruised to the lead in the first quarter-mile. Eighttofasttocatch is barely more than $2,000 from $1 million, which he will try to get in his final race, the Jennings Handicap on Dec. 6 at Laurel. Talk about a horse for course. Eighttofasttocatch is 14 for 27 at Laurel, 2 for 21 everywhere else. The Jennings is at Laurel.

If you did not see Russell Road’s third win in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, go watch the replay. It looked like there was no way that he would ever catch 1-2 Lucy’s Bob Boy as the two went around the track together, Russell Road, yet another 8-year-old, always chasing. Then, some combination of the racing gods (the rider of Lucy’s Bob Boy lost a rein when switching sticks late) and a horse that just wanted to be at the wire first got Russell Road win No. 28 in his career. Russell Road won in his first try at the Classic in 2009. He was fourth in 2010 before winning in 2011. He was second each of the last two years. The horse is less than $100,000 from $2 million in earnings.

Down Town Allen, a mere 7-year-old, got win No. 24 in the Cavada Breeders’ Classic at Charles Town. The mare has not lost in five starts this year and has won seven straight dating back to August 2013. She lost a race at Mountaineer before the streak and won six straight before that. So, she is on a 13-race winning streak at Charles Town, her home track. She needs a little more than $1,000 to hit $1 million.

So, let’s review. Four horses, 185 starts, 95 wins, $6.1 million. Now, you must understand why I am a sucker for older horses that win.

I am not sure how many races Galiana will win, but the 4-year-old filly had to be the horse of the meet at Delaware Park. Only Delaware Handicap winner Belle Gallantey earned more money than Galiana’s $189,031. She was 5 for 7 at the meet and, last Saturday, before all those veterans won at Laurel and Charles Town, she was 1-20 in the first race at Delaware Park where only two horses challenged. Actually, neither horse challenged as Galiana won by 4 3/4 lengths. Don’t know how many wins she will have by the time she reaches 7 or 8, but the bar has been set high in the Mid-Atlantic where old winning horses have been a thing forever, but seem to be even more of a thing now in an era where these kinds of horses stand out because they are so unique.