Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis couldn't just move on with their lives after their homebred Page McKenney was claimed away by Adam Staple and trainer Mary Eppler in July 2013.
“We had raised him on our farm and kind of suffered through his first several races. When I found out who the new owner was – Mary gave me his number – I really only called him to find out what he was all about. I wanted to find out if his intentions were good,” Bryant said. “My only request really was that we get him back at the end of his racing career. We had a really nice conversation, and before it was over, we ended up with 10 percent of the horse. It's really great to be involved. Adam's been really gracious to deal with.”
Page McKenney, who is scheduled to face eight rivals in Monday's $250,000 General George Stakes (G3) at Laurel Park, had won just one of 14 starts when he was claimed for $16,000. The Pennsylvania-bred gelding went on to win 14 races, including eight stakes, for his new connections while surpassing the $1 million earnings mark with his victory in the Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Jan. 2.
“It's certainly beyond expectations; it's almost beyond belief,” Bryant said. “I think people have really connected with him. He's a real blue-collar kind of a guy. He really tries his hardest every single time. He's a wonderful horse. We're so blessed to be involved in him at all.”
Page McKenney was honored Saturday at Laurel Park by the Maryland Racing Media Association, which named him 2015 Maryland-based Horse of the Year.
The wonderful journey with Page McKenney has opened the probability of a new venture between Bryant and Staple.
“I think we're going to be doing a co-breeder situation coming up. He's very astute at the claiming game, obviously, and I'm certainly not,” Bryant said. “I'm not involved in his claiming business, but I think we're going to be doing some breeding stuff together.”
Bryant and his wife Linda own and operate a farm in Eastern Virginia, where he is on the medical staff and his wife is a nurse manager at a local hospital. They have “a menagerie of animals' that includes three broodmares and 'an eclectic mix of retirees, a mule and a mini-mule.'
Although Page McKenney's dam, Winning Grace, has passed away, Bryant and David own her full sister, Snunner.
“Her first two foals were stakes winners and the third was a multiple allowance winner. Her first foal for us is a Jump Start 3-year-old who had a miserable first start and then finished third in his last race,” said Bryant, referring to Jump Jive an Wail. ”We also have two fillies out of her, one is a 2-year-old and the other is a yearling. They are both by Friesan Fire and look good. We'll have to see if they can run like they look.”
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