By Tom LaMarra
Page McKenney and Oak Bluffs, who thus far haven’t missed a race in their respective MATCH Series divisions, will seek to bolster their positions in the standings when the series returns to Monmouth Park July 29.
The grade III, $150,000 Monmouth Cup (3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division) and the $75,000 Wolf Hill Stakes (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division) are among seven stakes on a 14-race Sunday program featuring the grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational. The Monmouth Cup is the eighth race and the Wolf Hill the 11th race.
Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney, the 8-year-old Pennsylvania-bred gelding who has earned almost $2 million in 57 starts, tops his MATCH division with 17 points and is the only one of six entrants in the Monmouth Cup with a start in the series. It will be his third divisional start, which will qualify him for bonus money.
Trained by Mary Eppler, Page McKenney won the grade III Salvator Mile and finished second in the grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes, both at Monmouth. He is scheduled to face Jeral Keith Adams’ Remembering Rita, who won the grade III Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows in his last start, and 2017 Long Branch Stakes winner Phat Man, who in his only start this year won an allowance race at Churchill Downs in late June.
The Monmouth Cup is the longest race in the division at 1 1/8 miles. Page McKenney has four wins, five seconds and two thirds in 12 starts at the distance.
Oak Bluffs, an 8-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding owned and trained by Eppler, is one of 12 entered in the 5 1/2-furlong Wolf Hill, the fourth leg of five in the division. He has earned 16 series points based on a third-place finish in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, a win in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup and a sixth in the grade III Parx Dash.
The Wolf Hill marks the return of Breeze Easy’s Imprimis to the MATCH Series. Trained by Joe Orseno and based at Monmouth, Imprimis won the McKay Turf Sprint and skipped the Governor’s Cup and Parx Dash to target the Canadian grade I Highlander Stakes at Woodbine June 30. Imprimis was in the midst of a rally when he ran into traffic and had to settle for sixth.
Pewter Stable’s Dubini will make his third start in the MATCH division and thus qualify for bonus money. Based at Parx Racing and trained by Kathleen Demasi, Dubini finished second in the Governor’s Cup at Penn National and sixth in the Parx Dash on a “good” turf course. The winner of the Parx Dash, Vision Perfect, took a pass on the Wolf Hill.
Colts Neck Stables’ Pool Winner, who fell a nose short of winning the Parx Dash for trainer Alan Goldberg, like Dubini will qualify for bonus money with a start in the Wolf Hill. The 6-year-old gelding, one of the most consistent turf sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region for years, finish third, beaten a length by Oak Bluffs in the Governor’s Cup in his first MATCH Series outing.
The MATCH Series takes a one-weekend break after Haskell Day before returning to Monmouth for the track’s final race of the series–the $75,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes, fourth leg in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Turf Division. The race is named for the Charles Town-based mare who won 26 races, 16 of them stakes, while dominating the female turf sprint division at various tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region for most of her six-year racing career.
On Aug. 12, the series will make its Laurel Park debut with the $75,000 Polynesian Stakes, fourth of five legs in the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint–Dirt Division currently led by Charles Town-based Lewisfield, a Maryland-bred who never has finished worse than second at Laurel.