The $150,000 Classic is the 10th on an 11-race card that drew 108 entrants, with eight stakes highlighting the best of Maryland's Thoroughbred industry. Other features include the Maryland Million Lassie Stakes, Maryland Million Turf Stakes, and Maryland Million Sprint.
Millionaire Ben's Cat, looking to become the first horse to win four Maryland Million races, is cross-entered in post 8 of 11 in the $125,000 Maryland Million Turf and in post 3 of six for the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint, with a decision by trainer King Leatherbury expected by Friday. First post for the $1 million day is 12:15 p.m. EDT; for full entries, view the Equibase card.
Eighttofasttocatch, a Maryland-bred 7-year-old by Not for Love, won the 2011 Maryland Million Classic for trainer Tim Keefe, but was fifth of six in the 2012 edition. He has 43 starts under his girth and a 12-7-4 record good for $709,430 in earnings, with 10 of those wins at Laurel.
The gelding recently ran fifth off a layup in the Aug. 13 West Virginia Governor's Stakes, but was a gutsy second in the May 17 Pimlico Special Stakes (gr. III). Prior to that start, he won an off-the-turf edition of the 1 1/16-mile Henry S. Clark Stakes at Laurel April 20 after finishing second in the March 16 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes, a race he won in 2012.
"The key with him is to keep him happy, keep him fresh. That's why he's still 100% sound and doing great," Keefe said. "I don't think there's any mystery about how this horse prefers to run. He is what he is. If somebody wants to go with him they'll kill themselves, especially with us drawing the one hole."
Shouldering top weight of 123 pounds and overwhelmingly favored at 2-5 on the morning line for the Classic, which is scheduled for an approximate post time of 5:31 p.m. EDT, Eighttofasttocatch is to be ridden by Forrest Boyce.
Claimed at Saratoga Race Course to run in this spot, Romancing the Gold is an intriguing addition to the field. The 4-year-old Medalist gelding won a 1 1/8-mile claiming event at Saratoga Aug. 31 by 4 3/4 lengths over Kingofthebluegrass when running for a $25,000 tag for Dominic Gallusicio. Greg DiPrima and Jesse Iglesias are the new connections; Romancing the Gold will be ridden by Travis Dunkelberger from post 6 under 119 and is 10-1 on the morning line.
Making his stakes debut is Michael Harrison's homebred Talk Show Man, a sophomore Great Notion gelding who has started just three times. He was disqualified from second and placed third last time out in a Sept. 21 allowance going 1 1/16 miles at Laurel for drifting in, that run after breaking his maiden by 3 1/2 at a mile Aug. 30. In his first start he finished fourth on July 25 going six furlongs at Delaware Park. Hamilton Smith trains; Talk Show Man is 15-1 on the morning line and will be ridden from the 3 hole by Xavier Perez under 114.
Silverton Hill's Charles Town shipper Big Branch comes in for his first start outside the West Virginia oval. Trained by Jeff Runco, the 3-year-old Great Notion colt has been knocking on the door in the past two starts with consecutive runner-up efforts in allowance company after winning on May 30. J.D. Acosta rides from post 4 as Big Branch carries 114 in his stakes debut with 30-1 morning line odds.
Allowance winners Count to Seven and Wild Louis both carry 119, the former leaving post 2 and the latter breaking from the outside in a field of seven.
At 8-1 on the morning line for trainer Lacey Gaudet, Wild Louis seeks the winner's circle for the first time since last December, but has finished in the money 13 of 19 times. He is a 4-year-old gelded son of Louis Quatorze.
S.M.D. Limited's Seventeenohsix, a 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Dance with the Ravens who was third in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel back in March for trainer John Servis, completes the field at 6-1 on the morning line along with allowance winner Count to Seven.
$150,000 Maryland Million Classic Stakes (Race 10, approximate post 5:31 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Eighttofasttocatch (MD), F Boyce, 123, T L Keefe, 2-5
2. Count to Seven (MD), TBA, 119, C W Grove, 20-1
3. Talk Show Man (MD), X. Perez, 114, H A Smith, 15-1
4. Big Branch (KY), J.D. Acosta, 114, J C Runco, 30-1
5. Seventeenohsix (PA), K. Carmouche, 114, J C Servis, 6-1
6. Romancing the Gold (PA), T.L. Dunkelberger, 119, G DiPrima, 10-1
7 Wild Louis (MD), T. McCarthy, 119 L S Gaudet, 8-1