Sylvia Heft’s Eighttofasttocatch had to work hard for it, but at the finish he was the repeat winner of the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes, the closing day feature at Laurel Park.
Under guidance by the meeting’s leading rider Sheldon Russell, the son of Not For Love was quick to assume the lead in the 1-1/8th mile test. Nearing the far turn Cherokee Artist pushed inside the leader and got to the front, setting up a duel that would not be decided until the final furlong, where Eighttofasttocatch put away his rival and won in 1:53.43 over a surface rated good. Cherokee Artist finished a length back in second and Indian Jones was another 2-1/2 lengths back in third.
Maryland-bred Mystical Terp scored his second career victory by taking a starter allowance Thursday for Matthew Brown, N R S Stable and Tim Keefe (that's me!). We purchased the son of Lion Heart for $30,000 at Timonium in 2009 and he's gradually become as reliable as fresh milk in the morning. A come-from-behind sprinter, the big bay gelding has hit the board in eight consecutive races, earning lucrative Maryland-bred and Maryland Million bonuses. I love a horse who shows up and tries – that's all you can ask – every time you go over there. That's 13 wins for the year. As the great Woody Guthrie sang, "Roll on, Columbia, Roll on."
Defending champion Eighttofasttocatch has a mile and an eighth to dispense with five rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes, the closing day feature of the winter meeting at Laurel Park.
Eighttofasttocatch (4-5) won five races at Laurel in 2011, including four stakes races, with an average Beyer Speed figure exceeding 100 and finished fourth in the voting for Maryland-bred Horse of the Year behind graded winners Ben’s Cat, Ask the Moon and Havelock.
The son of Not For Love offspring made his 6-year-old debut with a disappointing fourth place finish in the General George Handicap (G2) on February 20 for trainer Tim Keefe.
“We didn’t have an easy trip and I would love to have the opportunity to run the race again but that is racing,” Keefe said. “He had a great run up until then and I have no complaints. I am very happy with how he is training leading up to this race.”
The ticker to the right ticked to two digits, with a nice win from Boudicca. Owned and bred by Charles and Cynthia McGinnes, the 3-year-old daughter of Hard Spun nailed Virginia Ann in the final strides to win by a neck. Sheldon Russell guided the chestnut filly to the victory.