09/29/2011 12:53PM

Laurel: Eighttofasttocatch goes for Classic win

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Eighttofasttocatch, coming off a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Japan Racing Association three weeks ago, is a prime contender in the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic.

Earlier this season, Eighttofasttocatch soared to a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Harrison Johnson Memorial, only to regress to a 57 when he returned nine weeks later in the Grade 2 Dixie on turf.

So skeptical handicappers must be wondering what awaits Eighttofasttocatch when he comes back just three weeks after posting a 100 Beyer for his win in the Japan Racing Association as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Maryland Million Classic.

The $150,000 Classic (race 10) is the richest race on an 11-race card at Laurel Park devoted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions. Billed as the 26th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million, the program is worth a collective $1.05 million and features nine stakes plus two starter handicaps. First post time is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

Trainer Tim Keefe said that based on how Eighttofasttocatch looks during his morning exercise, he expects a good effort in the 1 1/8-mile Classic.

“I’m confident on the fact that he’s training well,” Keefe said. “It’s always hard to put back-to-back triple-digit Beyers together, but he’s coming into the race well.”

Keefe noted he was pleased with Eighttofasttocatch’s five-furlong bullet workout in 1:00.60 on Monday. “He had a very nice work Monday,” Keefe said. “I’m as happy with him as I could be right now.”

Eighttofasttocatch’s six opponents include Sumacha’hot, who won the Classic two years ago. He injured an ankle preparing for last year’s Classic and has competed just twice after missing 13 months, finishing last in each comeback race.

“He’ll lay 15, 20 lengths out of it, and hopefully it’s a real fast pace like two years ago,” said trainer Butch Cave. “I think the last two races aren’t indicative of how he can run. The race two weeks ago, the turf was really soft and he didn’t like it at all.”

Not Abroad, the 9-5 second choice on the morning line, finished second in last year’s Classic as a 3-year-old. He has been first or second in his last three races, including a 5 1/2-length victory in the Governor’s Day Stakes at Delaware Park on Sept. 10.

Last year, In the Juice finished fourth in the Classic as the even-money favorite. This year, he has been first or second in 4 of 7 starts, but was well behind Not Abroad in each of his last two starts, both at Delaware.

“His last two races have been in spots where there was no speed,” trainer Jerry Robb said. “He didn’t get to run his race. I’ll take him back this time, hope there is speed in the race, and make one run to the finish line.”