09/10/2011 6:33PM

Laurel: Eighttofasttocatch benefits when Japan Racing Association switched to dirt

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Substitute rider Malcolm Franklin guides Eighttofasttocatch to victory in the off-the-turf Japan Racing Association Stakes at Laurel Park.

Eighttofasttocatch won the $67,750 Japan Racing Association and Comet of Love captured the $60,000 Jameela, a pair of stakes originally scheduled for the turf, on Saturday at Laurel Park.

The two races were shifted to the main track after Tropical Storm Lee deluged the area.

The surface switch hurt the JRA, as the field of 11 scratched down to seven. It certainly didn’t hurt Eighttofasttocatch, a main-track stakes winner the last time he ran at Laurel.

Trainer Tim Keefe missed the race to compete in a triathlon in Ohio. He will undoubtedly be impressed by the replays as his 5-year-old Eighttofasttocatch pulled away from the pack for an emphatic 4 1/2 length win over Nacho Saint with Indian Dance third.

“Once I found some room, he kicked on,” said Malcolm Franklin, who picked up the mount with Sheldon Russell away in England for a wedding.

Eighttofasttocatch paid $9 to win as he ran the one mile in 1:35.43

Comet of Love emerged with lead turning for home in the Jameela for Maryland-breds and prevailed by three-quarters of a length over late-running Fascinatin’ Rhythm, the winner of the Jameela last year when it was run on grass.

It was the 11th win for Comet of Love, and first in a stakes, for the 4-year-old filly who has been piling up victories in low-level starter allowances. She also gave trainer Tom Iannotti IV his first stakes victory.

“She’s been a tremendous surprise,” Iannotti said. “She came to us with such humble expectations. We were just trying to knock out some conditions. She’s just cleared every single hurdle we’ve put in front of her.”

Ricardo Chiappe was aboard as Comet of Love ran the six furlongs in 1:10.86.