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Eighttofasttocatch to defend Maryland Million Classic title

Maryland Million Classic defending champion Eighttofasttocatch, who also won in 2011, was made the overwhelming 3-5 morning-line favorite Wednesday for Saturday's edition of the race at Laurel Park.

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Eighttofasttocatch finished off the board in his only start this year, but the son of Not For Love has nine career stakes victories at Laurel. A win in the Classic would vault the Tim Keefe trainee near $1 million in career earnings. He is at $914,585.

"He's coming into the race well," Keefe said. "He's had a lot of time off, longer than I wanted. He's been training well."

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Keefe indicated that his Laurel-based star would be retired after the Jennings Handicap in Laurel Park on Dec. 6.

"It's hard when you've dictated a horse like this with a starting time and a finishing point and the finishing point is coming up," said Keefe, who has four career Maryland Million wins. "It's a little bittersweet knowing that this is my favorite race of the year … and knowing that he's just got one more after that. The saving grace is that he comes back to me. I won't be able to see him in barn 6A anymore, but when I go home I'll be able to see him."

The Classic is the 10th race on the program, with a post time of 5:37 p.m.

One race before the Classic will be the $125,000 Maryland Million Turf, featuring a rematch between defending champion Roadhog and runner-up Ben's Cat.

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Roadhog has a win and three second-place finishes in six starts this year for trainer Lizzie Merryman. The 7-year-old son of Bowman's Band is 10-for-35 lifetime with earnings of more than $600,000.

After victories three straight years, 2010-12, in the Turf Sprint, Ben's Cat finished second by a neck behind Roadhog last year in the Turf after the Turf Sprint was eliminated. After initially thinking Ben's Cat would run in the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint, owner and trainer King Leatherbury decided to run the son of Parker's Storm Cat in the Turf for the second consecutive year.

"All I had were the past performances. After I got my sheets, the turf race seems to be an easier race," Leatherbury said. "He [Roadhog] is not as good as last year, I don't think."

Ben's Cat is 27-for-43 lifetime, including 17 stakes victories on the turf for earnings of $2,175,990, but is coming off a third-place finish in the Laurel Dash on Sept.27.

"The last race was very disappointing to me," Leatherbury said. "A lot of times you run third and you're happy to get third, but not when you expect to win. Even though he ran a nice race, I was disappointed. It worries me a little bit. Usually he runs better than I think he will."

Hall of Famer Safely Kept, Countus In, Mz. Zill Bear and Docent are the only other runners to win three times on Maryland Million day. Eighttofasttocatch and Roadhog could join the list Saturday.

Maryland Million Classic field

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

Love's Not Fair

Horacio Karamanos

Claudio Gonzalez

30-1

2

Connemara Coast

Daniel Centeno

Tim Keefe

15-1

3

Eighttofasttocatch

Forest Boyce

Tim Keefe

3-5

4

Concealed Identity

J.D. Acosta

Linda Gaudet

15-1

5

Turbin

Inoel Beato

Keith Nations

8-1

6

Irish Lion

Jevian Toledo

Phil Schoenthal

20-1

7

Wild Louis

Cecily Evans

Dane Kobiskie

15-1

8

Seventeenohsix

Kendrick Carmouche

John Servis

6-1

9

Excessive Drama

Angel Serpa

Tres Abbott

12-1

Races at a glance

$100,000 Nursery (1st race): Eight 2-year-olds are entered, including Bullheaded Boy from the powerful Todd Pletcher stable, as well as Golden Years and Markakis, who both won first time out.

$100,000 Distaff (2nd race): 2012 Lassie winner Classy Coco and 2013 Lassie winner Jonesin for Jerry top a field of eight fillies and mares.

$50,000 Maiden (3rd race): Thirteen fillies and mares are entered in a 1 1/16-mile test on the turf course.

$100,000 Sprint (4th race): Eight sprinters are entered, including 2013 General George Handicap (G3) winner Javerre.

$125,000 Ladies (5th race): Ten fillies and mares are expected, including defending champion Monster Sleeping and 2012 winner Pagan Priestess.

$50,000 Starter Handicap (6th race): Wide-open affair includes Regal Warrior, who finished third in the 2010 Classic, and Lunar Rock, who won a handicap race for Maryland-breds on Black-Eyed Susan Day.

$50,000 Maiden (7th race): Fifteen horses are entered in a 1 1/16-mile test on the turf course.

$100,000 Lassie (8th race): Thirteen 2-year-old fillies are entered, including Selima Stakes winner Miss Bullistic

$125,000 Turf (9th race): In addition to Roadhog and Ben's Cat, the 12-horse field features 2012 runner-up Change of Command and Stakes-placed Talk Show Man.

$150,000 Classic (10th race): Highly favored Eighttofasttocatch looks to repeat as champion.

$50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap (11th race): Fifteen fillies and mares are entered in the 1-mile test on the main track.

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