Page McKenney cross-entered to General George
However, the popular gelding is also among the entries for the President’s Day feature on Monday at Laurel, the $250,000 General George S. (G3), and co-owner Adam Staple offered no definitive answer on which contest Page McKenney would take part.
“We’re just going to go over things. At this point, nothing is set in stone,” Staple said. “It would be an incredible achievement if he could even get a piece of a race that significant on Monday. What a feather in his cap. He wouldn’t have to win it to know that it’s a big deal.”
Page McKenney already stuck a significant feather in his cap when passing $1 million in career earnings with a victory in the Native Dancer S. while making his seasonal bow on January 2. That was the six-year-old’s third straight stakes win and fourth score from his last five races.
In fact, Page McKenney hasn’t finished worse than third in his last 22 races dating back to April 2014. Overall the son of Eavesdropper has racked up eight stakes wins and nine stakes placings while banking $1,021,978 in earnings.
“This is almost entirely because of Mary (Eppler),” Staple praised Page McKenney’s trainer, adding that he hopes the gelding sticks around for a while longer.
“We’ve seen what Ben’s Cat can do at nine and 10. That’s the one who Mary looks at,” Staple said in reference to the Maryland-based multiple Grade 3 winner. “If we’re real careful and treat him right and given that he’s so healthy and has such an amazingly great attitude…I’m not sure we can get to nine, but we can do this for a couple more years. He’s amazing.”
No matter which race Page McKenney goes in this weekend – the Campbell or General George – his upcoming races are pretty much set for the Charles Town Classic (G2) on April 23 and Pimlico Special (G3) on May 20, races in which he was the respective third and second last year. Regular rider Horacio Karamanos will have the mount in either race.
The General George drew a field of nine and also includes Green Gratto, who captured the Fall Highweight H. (G3) and Gravesend S. at Aqueduct to close out his 2015 campaign and just missed in third while making his six-year-old bow in the Toboggan S. (G3) on January 30.
Green Gratto will see a familiar face in Fabulous Kid, who nosed out his rival in an optional claimer before finishing third in the Fall Highweight, fifth in the Gravesend and fourth in the Toboggan. The five-year-old bay will attempt to the turn tables on Green Gratto in the seven-furlong General George.
Another rematch will take place between Sonny Inspired and Majestic Hussar, the respective one-two in the January 16 Fire Plug S. Sonny Inspired outran his odds at 12-1 in that contest, even surprising trainer Phil Schoenthal.
“I was as surprised as anybody in the grandstand. I wish I could tell you I was gung-ho and bet all my money. I was as surprised as anyone when he crossed the wire in front,” Schoenthal admitted. “The horse had a little bit of a history of being a hanger. He strikes the front and waits for horses or he’d run alongside another horse and not want to pass. You look at his PPs and it’s kind of clear he wins or loses by a nose, or if he’s third, it’s by a nose. “
Schoenthal is hoping Sonny Inspired continues to live up to his moniker, especially with the equipment changes made before the Fire Plug.
“We had thought taking the blinkers off at this point in his life might help him overcome that and we couldn’t have been more wrong. He ran two subpar races in a row,” Schoenthal explained.
“We decided to put the blinkers back on him, but rather than putting the same ones on him we decided to go back to the other extreme and close them up as opposed to the smaller ones he had been wearing.
“It’s more a case of experimenting and tinkering than any great knowledge or wisdom or great horsemanship. It was more a case of, ‘Hey let’s try something different and see what happens,’ and he responded with an authoritative run.
“That was the first time probably in his life that he made the lead and kind of surged clear. When he made the lead at the top of the stretch, I expected him to kind of hang and wait on horses, and he didn’t. Certainly, it was the best race of his life from a racehorse perspective. It’s encouraging as a trainer that after four years of fooling around, we got the right formula for him.”
Sonny Inspired will have Jevian Toledo aboard as he tries graded rivals for just the second time in his career.
The General George field is completed by last-out Jazil S. scorer Majestic Affair, stakes-placers Warrioroftheroses and Any Court Inastorm, and Act of Madness.
Earlier on Laurel’s President’s Day card, six sophomores, including five Triple Crown nominees, will line up for the $75,000 Miracle Wood S. going a mile.
Included in the bunch is undefeated Charmed Victory, who has captured his two races to date by a combined seven lengths and will be making his stakes bow here. Never Gone South is already 5-3-2-0 in his career, including a 7 1/4-length triumph in the Frank Whiteley Jr. S. last out in his sophomore bow, and will be looking to hand Charmed Victory a first loss.
Eight sophomore fillies will take center stage in the $75,000 Wide Country S. at seven furlongs. Karen’s Silk has captured her last three, including the Marshua S., and will be looking to continue her win streak to four straight.
Page McKenney photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Sonny Inspired photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club