12/01/2011 11:55AM

Laurel Park: Eighttofasttocatch looks tough in Jennings Handicap

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Eighttofasttocatch will be favored in Saturday's Jennings Handicap at Laurel Park.

Eighttofasttocatch, a winner in each of his three previous stakes starts at Laurel Park this season, takes a distinct class drop from a Grade 2 stakes to face Maryland-breds in Saturday’s $75,000 Jennings Handicap. Although Eighttofasttocatch has found an ideal spot, bettors seeking a better price have three viable alternatives to the logical favorite among his five rivals in the one-turn dirt mile.

Regal Solo, coming off a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure in the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash; the 3-year-old Concealed Identity, back on the main track following consecutive romps on turf; and Indian Dance, facing statebred company for the first time after eight straight starts against open stakes company; all are dangerous opponents.

The 6-year-old Regal Solo, claimed for $40,000 in August 2009 by trainer Damon Dilodovico, won the Jennings when it was contested at 1 1/8 miles two months later. He won the 2010 Maryland Million Classic going nine furlongs in October 2010, then was off an entire year. He stretches out to a mile following two good off-the-pace efforts sprinting in the Maryland Million Sprint and the De Francis Dash. He should be primed for a peak effort going longer in the third start of his form cycle.

The De Francis Dash has turned into a key race with two runners who finished behind Regal Solo, Sunrise Smarty and Ravalo, have come back to win the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct and $200,000 Six Bits Handicap at Penn National.

“I hope the Dash turns into a key race. He certainly gave us a big effort that day,” said trainer Damon Dilodovico. “This is a tough race. I don’t think this is his best distance but he is sharp. For him to give us three top performances in a row might be asking too much but he is doing well.”

Concealed Identity appeared to have found a new home on turf after winning an optional claimer and the restricted Find Handicap by a combined 10 1/2 lengths. But he’s also quite proficient on the main track, where he won the Federico Tesio and finished a close second in the Grade 3 Pegasus earlier this season.

Indian Dance owns a 4-for-6 record at Laurel, including a two-length score in the Harrison Johnson Memorial in March 2010. Like Regal Solo, Indian Dance could be sitting on a peak effort after pairing up 89 Beyers in his first two starts since a 12-month layoff.

Any of the three challengers will have to run their best to knock off Eighttofasttocatch, who is back in a more realistic spot after being ambitiously placed in the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland, his first attempt on a synthetic surface. Prior to that, the 5-year-old Eighttofasttocatch won back-to-back starts in the Japan Racing Association and Maryland Million Classic. He also won the Johnson Memorial in late March. His Beyers from his three stakes wins at Laurel – 97, 99, 103 – stamp him a legitimate favorite.

“It has been a terrific year," trainer Tim Keefe said. "He has stayed sound, his attitude is great and has been a lot of fun to train. We have worked hard to get him to rate but it doesn’t look like there is a lot of speed in the race so we might end up in front but we’ll deal with it. He likes it here at Laurel.”