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.
“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.”
Keefe’s star prepped for his Harrison Johnson defense with a bullet 5-furlong work here Saturday morning where he stopped the clock in 1:00 flat.
“He is coming into the race in fantastic shape, just as well as last year if not better,” added Keefe. “This race was a springboard for us last year and hopefully it does the same. I have a couple of ideas for him this year but like to take things one race at a time.”
Sheldon Russell is the regular rider.
Concealed Identity (5-1) won a pair of stakes races during his 3-year-old campaign last year and competed in both the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) but started this year with a disappointing fourth in the John Campbell Handicap last month. Linda Gaudet hopes to regroup as Abel Castellano replaces Russell on the son of Smarty Jones.
Rick Dutrow claimed Regal Warrior (6-1) for $30,000 last out and supplemented the Louis Quatorze gelding into the race. Regal Warrior returns to Laurel for the first time since a weakening fifth behind Eighttofasttocatch in the Maryland Million Classic. Julian Pimentel has the riding assignment.
Jerry Robb claimed Cherokee Artist (6-1) before the son of Cherokee Run posted a win over $25,000 company for trainer Graham Motion. Victor Santiago tries his luck on the 7-year-old.
Parx Racing shipper Indian Jones (8-1) was a willing second when he ventured to Laurel on March 2. Phil Aristone will use Erlius Vaz on the Smarty Jones horse.
Mark Shuman has guided Thomas Got Even (10-1) to three wins in his past four starts, the most recent a handicap score at Charles Town. Antonio Lopez has the mount.
Live racing shifts to historic Pimlico Race Course on Friday, March 30 for the eight-week spring meeting, headlined by the 137th running of the $1 million Preakness® Stakes, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, on May 19. First post for opening day is 1:10 p.m.