Eighttofasttocatch is the 9-5 favorite in the Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park Oct. 6.

Eighttofasttocatch is the 9-5 favorite in the Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park Oct. 6.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Big Fields Dominate Maryland Million Races

Eighttofasttocatch chases repeat for trainer Tim Keefe in $150,000 Classic Oct. 6.

Eighttofasttocatch has been tabbed as the 9-5 favorite as he goes for a repeat in the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park Oct. 6.

The 27th Jim McKay Maryland Million attracted 106 entrants to the eleven-race program Saturday. First post for the $1.05 million day for horses by stallions standing in Maryland is 12:35 p.m. EDT.

The Classic, at 1 1/8 miles, features six runners including defending champion Eighttofasttocatch, last year’s runner-up Cactus Charlie, and third-place finisher Not Abroad. Two others who competed in the race the last two years are also in the field.

Eighttofasttocatch, a son of Not For Love has won 10 career races, nine at Laurel Park. The 6-year-old has five stakes wins at the central Maryland track, including a repeat score in the Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes on March 24.

“I like the spot and I’m happy with the way he’s coming into the race,” trainer Tim Keefe said. “He’s as happy and sound as he’s ever been in his entire career. If he gets beat Saturday it’s because he gets beat by a better horse.”

Eighttofasttocatch has run just three times since winning the Harrison Johnson, including a fifth-place finish in the Japan Racing Association Stakes on the Laurel grass last month.

“He’s one of my favorite horses,” said Sheldon Russell, who has ridden 16 times and will be aboard Saturday. “I was disappointed the last time we ran him on the grass. I dropped the whip or it would have been better outcome. He keeps improving and loves the big days.”

Keefe also cross-entered his star in the $100,000 Turf as a backup plan.

“It is 99.99 percent we’re going in the Classic,” added Keefe. “I wanted options because I didn’t know how this race would come up.”

Not Abroad (2-1) finished second to Regal Solo in 2010 as a 3-year-old before last year’s third-place finish. The son of Not For Love comes into the Classic in fine form, finishing first or second in four of his five races this year. Nick Petro rides the colt for his brother Mike.

After his second-place finish in the Classic a year ago, Cactus Charlie (4-1) has finished in the money in three of five races, but the son of Not For Love has not visited the winners’ circle. Shannon Uske is the regular rider for trainer John Tammaro IV.

Regal Warrior (8-1) was third in the 2010 Classic while in the Mike Trombetta barn, then finished fifth a year ago while being conditioned by Mitch Friedman. The son of Louis Quatorze was claimed by Rick Dutrow in February but has run just once, a fifth-place finish behind Eighttofasttocatch in the Harrison Johnson Stakes in mid-March. Julian Pimentel has the riding assignment.

In the Juice (12-1) has finished sixth and  fourth in the last two runnings of the Classic. This year, the son of Rock Slide is winless in five starts. Wesley Ho rides the Jerry Robb trainee.

The only newcomer to the Classic is Tujoes (6-1) who comes into the race off two straight victories, including the Roanoke Stakes at Parx Racing Sept. 8. Angel Arroyo will ride for trainer Steve Klesaris. The son of Oratory is also entered in the $100,000 Sprint.

In the $100,000 Turf Sprint, Ben's Cat is looking to become the fourth horse to win a Maryland Million race three consecutive years, joining Safely Kept (Distaff, ’89-91), Countus In (Ladies, ’89-91), and Mz. Zill Bear (Ladies, ’93-95).

The son of Parker’s Storm Cat became King Leatherbury’s first millionaire with a victory in the Turf Monster (gr. III) at Parx Racing in his last start. The 6-year-old, who has 12 career stakes victories, will be carrying 128 pounds, 11 more than his nearest rival.

“He’s the best horse but I’m not happy with that kind of weight,” Leatherbury said. “He’s maintained his class and is doing fine.”

Nine challengers are willing to face Ben’s Cat, including millionaire Heros Reward from the Dale Capuano barn. The 10-year-old, who has career earnings of $1,252,898 (nearly $92,000 more than Ben’s Cat), has run just four times this year, including a fifth behind the favorite in the Mister Diz Stakes at Pimlico Race Course earlier this year.

“Maybe Ben won’t run his race this time,” Capuano said. “He (Heros Reward) is fresh and sound. He shows up every time and you can’t ask for any more than that.”

The field also features Steady Warrior, who finished just a length behind Ben’s Cat in last year’s Turf Sprint and a neck behind his rival in the Mister Diz.

$150,000 Maryland Million Classic (Race 10, 6 p.m. EDT), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Regal Warrior (MD), J Pimentel, 119, R E Dutrow Jr., 8/1
2. Not Abroad (MD), N J Petro, 123, M P Petro, 2/1
3. Eighttofasttocatch (MD), S Russell, 123, T L Keefe, 9/5
4. Cactus Charlie (MD), S Uske, 119, J Tammaro IV, 4/1
5. In the Juice (MD), W Ho, 119, J J Robb, 12/1
6. Tujoes (PA), A S Arroyo, 121, S Klesaris, 6/1