By Tom LaMarra
Pennsylvania-bred Page McKenney had already accomplished quite a bit before his 2018 campaign ended prematurely with retirement in August, but he left the racetrack with additional recognition: a MATCH Series division title and induction into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame.
Page McKenney, owned by Adam Staple and Jalin Stable and trained by Mary Eppler, won the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division and on Sept. 15 was among those honored at Parx, where he won seven of 10 starts, five of them stakes. Dr. Jim Bryant, who co-bred Page McKenney with Linda Davis–they make up Jalin Stable–was on hand to accept the Hall of Fame plaque.
“Some of his most exciting races were here,” said Bryant, an owner and breeder who lives in Virginia. “When he won the Roanoke Stakes and PA Derby Championship Stakes last year, those were probably my favorites. But his race in the Swatara Stakes at Penn National really stood out, too. Kid Cruz came flying up to him in the stretch and went to eyeball-to-eyeball with him and he just wouldn’t let him go by.
“Adam really nailed it when he said Page had a long, amazing run. I think that sums it up. It’s mixed emotions now but everybody was on board to retire him because it was the right thing to do. I’m happy we’re not going to run him past the point when he should run.”
In 58 starts, Page McKenney had 22 wins, 16 seconds and five thirds for earnings of $1,905,940. His last victory came in the grade III Salvator Mile in late May at Monmouth Park.
Page McKenney was claimed for $16,000 by Eppler on behalf of Staple in 2013, and Bryant and Davis, his previous owners, purchased a minority share. He was stabled with Eppler at Pimlico Race Course and remains there for now.
“Jasmine Napravnik broke him and gave him an unbelievable foundation. He ended up Mary, and he blossomed slowly but surely. Mary is talking about making him a stable pony. He’s what I call an equine gym rat–he likes the track. Once he’s done with his stall rest, maybe we’ll take him to the farm in Virginia for the winter. But we’ll probably give Mary a shot at making him a stable pony.”
The Parx Hall of Fame, organized by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, also inducted four individuals: Dr. Patty Hogan, who operates an equine clinic in New Jersey; Russell Jones Jr., a Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission member and lifelong horsemen with involvement in the auction sector; Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor who signed the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act into law in 2004; and trainer Richard Vega, who has won many races at Parx since he got his trainer’s license in 1992 and in 2016 won his 1,000th race.
Danielle Montgomery, who administrates the PTHA’s Turning for Home aftercare program, said Hogan, for the first five years of the program, performed many surgeries and consultations on racehorses that entered the program for new homes and second careers. Hogan studied veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“So many people work very hard for this program,” Hogan said of Turning For Home. “I’m happy to see it thriving as a model aftercare program.”
Rendell, who at this time isn’t involved in politics, was represented at Parx by Steve Crawford, his one-time chief of staff who was a point person on the gaming legislation in 2004. Crawford discussed what many people have long believed: The 3-year-old campaign of Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones that year definitely fueled passage of the bill.
“The governor is a huge racing fan,” Crawford said. “I remember the thrill of getting that bill passed, not only to give Pennsylvania residents property tax relief but to protect agriculture and all the people in the horseracing business. Smarty Jones can be credited with getting the slots bill passed in Pennsylvania–he was actually racing for all of us that day.”