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.
The 6-year-old gelding now has five stakes victories at his home track in a 365-day period for trainer Tim Keefe. In his previous start he finished a disappointing fourth in the General George Handicap (G2) after a troubled trip.
“I was glad he bounced back,” Russell said. “This is a bit of justice because I think with a good trip we win the General George.”
The winner upped his record to 10 wins in 32 starts with earnings of $463,190.
“He’s a very nice horse, obviously,” said Keefe. “He tries every time. It is great to have a horse like him.”
Keefe, who finished in fifth in the trainer standings during the meet with 16 victories, said his star would run next in the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3) on May 18.
“He hasn’t missed a beat and works well in-between races,” added Keefe. “I just need to keep him fresh and happy.”
Eighttofasttocatch paid $2.40 as the prohibitive 1-5 betting favorite.