Eighttofasttocatch is one of three defending champions pre-entered for the Oct. 6 Jim McKay Maryland Million program.

Eighttofasttocatch is one of three defending champions pre-entered for the Oct. 6 Jim McKay Maryland Million program.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Plenty of Pre-Entries for Maryland Million

The event, which features 11 races, will be held at Laurel Park Oct. 6.

Laurel Park received 155 pre-entries, which includes cross-entered horses, for the Oct. 6 Jim McKay Maryland Million program.

Post positions for the 11 races will be drawn Oct. 3 at Laurel. Track officials reported that 11 previous winners of Maryland Million races were pre-entered, including three defending champions: Eighttofasttocatch (Classic), Sloane Ranger (Sprint), and Ben's Cat (Turf Sprint).

The Classic, which attracted 13 pre-entries, has the highest purse at $150,000. There are eight $100,000 events and two $50,000 starter handicaps. The Sprint and Nursery attracted the most pre-entries, each with 19.

Eighttofasttocatch, by Not For Love, has five career stakes victories at Laurel for trainer Tim Keefe. The 6-year-old is one-for-five this year with a victory in the Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes in March.

"I don't think we'll be 4-5 (odds) this year," Keefe, who has three career Maryland Million victories, told Maryland Jockey Club media officials. "He ran a bad race at Pimlico, had the summer off, and didn't win the Japan Racing Association like last year, but he ran very well that day.

"I was very happy with the effort. I was happy with how he came up to the race, am even happier how he came out of that race, and am ecstatic with how he is coming into this race. He is fit, happy, sound, is doing everything right, and we get him back on the dirt."

Ben's Cat is looking to become the fourth horse to win a Maryland Million race three straight years in the Turf Sprint, joining Safely Kept (Distaff, 1989-91), Countus In (Ladies, 1989-91) and Mz. Zill Bear (Ladies, 1993-95). Bred, owned and trained by King Leatherbury, Ben's Cat, a 6-year-old by Parker's Storm Cat, has won 17 of 26 starts, including 10 of 15 on the turf.

Ben's Cat topped the $1 million mark in earnings when he won the grade III Turf Monster at Parx Racing in September.

Sloane Ranger, also by Parker's Storm Cat, edged 2010 Classic winner Regal Solo in the 2011 Maryland Million Sprint and will likely face that rival again this time. Trained by Marty Ciresa, 6-year-old Sloane Ranger has finished in the money in six of seven starts this year, including a pair of stakes victories.

"He is just so consistent," said Ciresa, who has three Maryland Million wins on his resume. "At six furlongs on a fast track he is always there. He has really matured this year and loves to run. I am already looking forward to his 7-year-old year."

The Maryland Million began in 1986. It is for offspring of Maryland-based stallions.