Updated on 12/03/2011 5:25PM

Laurel: Eighttofasttocatch takes fourth Maryland stakes of season in Jennings

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Eighttofasttocatch, ridden by Sheldon Russell, collects his fourth stakes win of 2011 in the Jennings Handicap.

Eighttofasttocatch reaffirmed his affinity for Laurel Park on Saturday when he cruised to his fifth victory of the season locally in the $75,000 Jennings Handicap for Maryland-breds.

Taking a distinct class drop following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Fayette on Keeneland’s Polytrack, Eighttofasttocatch ($3.80) was sent to the lead by regular rider Sheldon Russell and carved out uncontested fractions of 24.41 and 47.62 seconds in the one-turn mile race while opening up a four-length advantage. Indian Dance, fifth after the first half-mile, mounted a challenge to get within a half-length  of Eighttofasttocatch in the early part of the stretch run, but the favorite responded and pulled clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths, completing the distance in 1:35.76.

Trained by Tim Keefe for Sylvia Heft, the 5-year-old Eighttofasttocatch has now won four stakes this season in Maryland as part of his 5-for-10 campaign. Overall, he has won 9 of 30 starts and $391,190.

“Tim and I had spoken about it and it looked on paper he was the fastest horse, even under rating, so as soon as the gates opened I just took one hold and got him to relax as much as I could," said Russell. “He enjoyed it. I was making sure that when I was on the lead I didn’t have anybody surprise me, so when I felt them coming close behind me I just made sure I had my horse’s attention and at the top of the lane he gave me everything he had.”

“We were hoping for a good effort today,” said Keefe. “The intention was to get him to relax and settle and he has. With no speed in here we thought more than likely we’d be in front. He was able to go slow enough and rate on the front end.”

Indian Dance, making the third start of his comeback following a year’s layoff, finished second, three lengths in front of the 3-year-old Concealed Identity in a field of six.