Adam Staple and Jalin Stable's Page McKenney, claimed for $16,000 in 2013, got his first lifetime graded stakes victory in Monday's Grade 3 General George Stakes at Laurel Park. The 6-year-old gelding by Eavesdropper, honored Saturday as the Maryland-based Horse of the Year, covered the seven furlongs over the fast, snowy main track in 1:24.61 for trainer Mary Eppler.
“I have ridden a lot of nice horses, but this horse is all heart,” jockey Horacio Karamanos said. “It was a big test today at seven-eighths.”
Relegated to fourth early, Page McKenney's rail draw gave him the ground-saving advantage as he maintained position along the inside. Green Gratto strode out for the early lead as expected, out-sprinting Majestic Affair and Majestic Hussar for the first quarter in :23.30. The latter moved up to prompt the pace nearing the half-mile pole, reaching the saddle towel of Green Gratto as he passed the marker in :46.85.
Exiting the turn, Majestic Affair was head-and-head with Green Gratto while Karamanos searched for racing room aboard Page McKenney. Green Gratto dropped back just as Page McKenney swung to the outside to hook up with Majestic Affair. Karamanos found just a bit more, and Page McKenney passed that heavy favorite to win by a head. Sonny Inspired closed to be third, and Green Gratto was fourth.
“He had been training great even better than before, although he wasn't able to train very much this week because of the (cold) weather. He is amazing. He likes to run on any surface. In fact he set a track record on the turf,” Eppler said. “I didn't expect him to be that close today, but he wanted to run. Even if he did get beat, I would have been so proud of him for trying so hard.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis, the chestnut gelding has now strung together four back-to-back victories. His breeders were allowed the opportunity to purchase a ten-percent share after Staple claimed the horse away, and he has gone on to win a total of 16 races from 43 career starts. With his first graded stakes victory, Page McKenney boosted his bankroll to over $1.17 million.
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