By Tom LaMarra
Page McKenney has made the rounds in the Mid-Atlantic region during his 56-race career, but until May 26 the 8-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding hadn’t raced at Monmouth Park.
His first start at the New Jersey track produced the 22nd victory of his career and pushed his earnings closer to the $2 million mark for owners Adam Staple and Jalin Stable and Maryland-based trainer Mary Eppler. It came in the $100,000, grade III Salvator Mile, the first of five races in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division.
Page McKenney had last raced March 31 at Gulfstream Park, where Eppler had a string this winter. He was nominated for a few stakes but the trainer opted to wait until the one-mile Salvator Mile, and it paid off with a $60,000 payday.
“I was always afraid to try him at Monmouth because it’s always speed-holding,” Eppler said. “Now, we’ll have to look at the other races in the MATCH Series for him. ‘Page’ is ‘Page.’ He has done this before, like his races at Parx last year–it was the exact same race today.”
Horacio Karamanos, regular rider of Page McKenney, got the gelding away in fourth in a seven-horse field and sat several lengths off leading Shaft of Light and Sunny Ridge, who tracked him in second through an honest pace. Sunny Ridge collared Shaft of Life turning for home as Page McKenney altered to the outside and slowly began to gain on the top two.
Page McKenney edged past late to win by a half-length over a stubborn Shaft of Light. Sunny Ridge, the New Jersey-bred gelding who is closing in on the $1 million mark in earnings, finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Shaft of Light.
The final time for the mile on a fast track was 1:36.49. Page McKenney paid $17.60 to win as the fourth choice.
“I tried to be closer to the pace this time,” Karamanos said. “He was on the bit really easy. I didn’t want to be inside (heading into the stretch) so I swung out. It was tough because those top two horses weren’t really stopping. I’ve ridden a lot of nice horses, but this horse is my favorite. He had tendon problems three years ago and he came back. He’s all heart.”
Page McKenney was bred by Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis. He was claimed by Staple for $16,000 in 2013, and not long after Jalin Stable, his previous owner, purchased an interest.
The next two races in the 3-Year-Old and Up Long–Dirt Division will be held at Monmouth: the $100,000, grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes June 30 and the $150,000, grade III Monmouth Cup July 29.
The MATCH Series moves to Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course June 2 for two races that are part of the marquee Penn Mile program. The $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at five furlongs is the second leg of the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division, while the $100,000 Penn Ladies Dash is the second of five races in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Turf Division.