Heavily favored Eighttofasttocatch put away his rivals in impressive fashion Dec. 6, cruising by 10 3/4 lengths to an unprecedented fourth victory in the $125,000 Jennings Handicap at Laurel Park while soaring past the million-dollar mark in purse earnings in the final start of his career (VIDEO).
Sylvia Heft's 8-year-old Not For Love gelding, bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm and Herringswell Stable, went gate to wire under Forest Boyce over eight opponents at odds of 3-10. Eighttofasttocatch completed a mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:36.70 in the test for state-bred and/or -sired runners.
The Jennings was the last of four stakes worth at least $100,000 on the Laurel card Saturday.
"I just was hoping he would run well and run to his ability and run the way we hoped he would run—and he did," trainer Tim Keefe said. "I knew he was 1-5 and there were a lot of articles about him and people were saying 'Man, what a good story it would be,' and fortunately it worked out."
Coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in his third Maryland Million Classic Stakes Oct. 18, Eighttofasttocatch won the Jennings for the fourth year in a row to collect his 12th stakes score. He will retire to a second career as an event horse with a 17-7-4 record from 49 starts.
"There've been a lot of good memories with this guy. On to retirement now," Keefe remarked.
Eighttofasttocatch took the early lead from post 2 after starting a step slow, and led eight others through opening fractions of :24.06 and :47.18 to open a two-length lead on his nearest rivals. The 30-1 shot Larry Le Roi attempted to make a run at the leader after three-quarters went in 1:11.68, giving his best run coming down off the turn for home.
But Eighttofasttocatch hit a second gear and drew away under right-handed encouragement from Boyce, opening the gap to six lengths through seven-eighths in 1:23.79, and then cruising under the wire under a hand ride.
"He got off just a little slow," said Boyce. "It's a different situation when you have a horse like this under you. I asked him a little early, which isn't the usual, but he was very settled and we stayed close to the top of the lane. I just chirped to him and he took off. This is such a great feeling for me today. He's been such a cool horse. The most important thing for me today was that he goes out with a win.
"You don't get to be with one horse all the time with so many tracks running at the same time, but we have stayed together and he is my true teammate. It's going to be really had to not have him to ride anymore. I want to thank Tim and his whole staff. They all do such hard work to make this happen."
Eighttofasttocatch will return for a winners' circle retirement ceremony at Laurel next Saturday, Dec. 13. He will then move on to Keefe's Montgomery County farm and start a new career.
"It's bittersweet," said Keefe. "I won't see him here but I'll see him at my farm. I will miss the great owners of mine, that connection, and the horse training in the morning. He ran the way I hoped and thought. This is a horse that will run on anything. She didn't rush him out of the gate. Once I saw him around the three-eighths pole, (Boyce) was just perched up there and the others were backing up. I was pretty confident."
Eighttofasttocatch returned $2.60, $2.40, and $2.10 as the 123-pound highweight. Larry Le Roi brought $13 and $8.80 while Concealed Identity paid $5.80 in third. Turbin, Always Smiling, Koh I Noor, Outbacker, Curlin's Kid, and D C Dancer completed the order of finish.
Out of the Nice Catch mare Too Fast to Catch, Eighttofasttocatch retires with earnings of $1,072,970. He was purchased by Keefe for the late Arnold Heft at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2007 Eastern Fall Yearling Sale for $47,000 when consigned by Dark Hollow.
Keefe will take his star to his farm to rest for the winter, and plans to begin his training for a new career in the spring.
"I will turn him out for a month or two and let him chill out," Keefe said. "Any break he has ever had he has always come to our place. He is familiar with it and mellows out pretty quickly. When the weather starts to break, my wife Rumsey and daughter Ryan will start working with him in the round pen and teaching him the basics for his next career.
Also on the Dec. 6 card at Laurel, Lady Sabelia won the $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up; Golden Years took the $100,000 Marylander Stakes for 2-year-olds; and Lake Sebago took the $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.