01/19/2013 3:09PM

Laurel Park: Eighttofasttocatch seeks big payday in Native Dancer Stakes

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Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
Eighttofasttocatch is the morning-line favorite and 124-pound highweight for Monday's Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park.

As the lone Maryland-bred in the field, morning-line favorite and 124-pound highweight Eighttofasttocatch has a lot riding on the outcome of Monday’s co-featured Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park.

And while his eight opponents will compete for the basic purse of $75,000, the jackpot is worth $125,000 to the connections of Eighttofasttocatch because of a $50,000 bonus from the Maryland breeding fund.

So the 7-year-old Eighttofasttocach will be chasing his richest purse since he finished fifth as the 6-5 favorite in last fall’s $150,000 Maryland Million Classic when he goes for his 11th lifetime win at Laurel.

The Tim Keefe-trained Eighttofasttocatch will be cutting back slightly in distance from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles after setting the pace and weakening to finish second against open company in the Broad Brush on Dec. 29. He also will be making the third start of his current form cycle, a situation in which Eighttofasttocatch is 3 for 4.

Two of his main rivals are Florida shipper Adirondack King and the well-traveled 5-year-old Norman Asbjornson.

Adirondack King went 0 for 10 during his 3-year-old campaign in 2012, but ran well enough to narrowly miss in the $100,000 Barbaro at Delaware Park in October. He travels north after finishing fourth of six in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park a month ago.

Norman Asbjornson trains at Bowie for Chris Grove, but has never raced at Laurel in his 17-race career. He has been off since finishing second to repeat stakes winner San Pablo in the Swatara at Penn National in November. The previous time he returned from an absence of 61 to 180 days, Norman Asbjornson won going a mile at Parx Racing in September 2011.

“I don’t know if he has ever trained as good as he has been since the layoff,” Grove said. “He’s really good right now.”

Tiger Walk, who chased such highly regarded 3-year-olds as Alpha and Hansen early last season, merits respect making his second start following a long layoff. He is 1 for 2 making the second start of his form cycle the past two seasons.

Tiger Walk is owned by Sagamore Farm, which is sponsoring the race, named in honor of former Sagamore Farm great Native Dancer. During his Hall of Fame career, Native Dancer went 21 for 22, winning both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1953. Upon his retirement, Native Dancer entered stud at Sagamore Farm, where he sired 45 stakes winners. He died in 1967 and is buried at Sagamore.

◗ Immortal Eyes, who has hit the board in three consecutive six-figure stakes, heads a group of six older sprinters in the co-featured $75,000 Spark Plug at six furlongs (race 6).

The 8-year-old Immortal Eyes is 0 for 4 at Laurel, despite good recent efforts. He overcame a stumble at the start to lose by just 1  1/2 lengths in the $350,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash and was second, beaten three lengths by Il Villano, in the $100,000 Dave’s Friend last time out.

His opponents include Wolfcamp, who was a neck behind Immortal Eyes in the Dave’s Friend; Sportswriter, winner of two stakes restricted to New York-breds in 2012; and the Parx-based Harbor Kid, who has two wins and a second in his three most recent starts.