Sylvia Heft poses with jockey Sheldon Russell and her husband Arnold Heft in the winner’s circle. (Photo credit: Karl Merton Ferron)
Craig Brownstein of PuckBuddys writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks.
Next to the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the biggest day on the Free State’s racing calendar is a championship series for horses who claim a pedigree connected to Maryland stallion.
In its 26th renewal Saturday, the feature race, the Maryland Million Classic, was won by a runner who claims Russian ancestry. Eighttofasttocatch, a four-year-old chestnut gelding, was named after Caps Captain Alex Ovechkin. “Catcher” is a well-regarded race horse campaigned by Arnold Heft (an NBA ref back in the day), former co-owner of the Bullets who purchased the team along with Abe Pollin in 1964.
According to the official chart of the race, he dragged his feet a little bit in the early going, only to thunder down the stretch to win by nearly two lengths. He “gathered momentum leaving the half mile marker, moved to collar the leader approaching the stretch, kicked clear in upper stretch, responded to solid right hand pressure (a.k.a. the whip) leaving the eighth pole, drifted out slightly near the sixteenth pole and held sway.” That sounds an awful lot like the last half of the Caps 2010-2011 regular season and playoff run, all except for the holding sway part, of course.