Page McKenney shortens up successfully in General George
The decision to bypass Saturday's $75,000 John B. Campbell in favor of Monday's $250,000 General George (G3) paid huge dividends for the connections of local favorite Page McKenney, who gradually wore down 3-2 favorite Majestic Affair to take the seven-furlong, Presidents' Day feature at Laurel by a head in snowy conditions.
A ground-saving fourth as Green Gratto set a pace of :23.30 and :46.85, Page McKenney was eased out by Horacio Karamanos around the far turn and came under a drive which appeared at first to not be going anywhere. However, by the time the field entered the straight, both Majestic Affair, who had seized control from Green Gratto following a four-wide bid, and Page McKenney looked like solid win prospects.
In a duel that lasted for much of the final furlong, Page McKenney edged closer and closer to his rival and just got clear in the final yards. The 2-1 second choice in a field of eight, Page McKenney paid $6.80 after completing the distance on a fast track in 1:24.61. Majestic Affair finished four lengths ahead of 20-1 outsider Sonny Inspired.
"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," said winning trainer Mary Eppler, who conditions Page McKenney for Adam Staple and Jalin Stable. "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."
A six-year-old gelded son of Eavesdropper, the hard-knocking Page McKenney improved his career mark to 43-16-12-4, $1,171,978, with the victory. It was his fourth stakes win in a row following scores in the $100,000 Richard W. Small at Laurel, $100,000 Swatara at Penn National, and $75,000 Native Dancer at Laurel. The latter victory put Page McKenney over the $1 million mark in career earnings.
Page McKenney has won nine stakes overall and placed in nine others. He placed three times in graded company last year: the Charles Town Classic (G2), Pimlico Special (G3), and Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3).
"I think he's more of a two-turn horse and I will keep him at those distances," Eppler said.
Repeat tries in the April 23 Charles Town Classic and May 20 Pimlico Special would appear to be distinct possibilities.
Earlier in the card, odds-on favorites were turned back in both the $74,250 Miracle Wood and $75,000 Wide Country for three-year-olds and three-year-old fillies, respectively.
In the one-mile Miracle Wood, Marengo Road hounded 2-5 favorite Never Gone South from the start and ultimately wore down that rival in deep stretch. Under Julian Pimentel, Marengo Road won by three parts of a length over Charmed Victory, with Never Gone South 1 1/2 lengths behind in third. The final time was 1:40.13 and the winner paid $14.80.
Owned by Tom Meyerhoff and trained by Michael Trombetta, Marengo Road had previously trailed a field of nine in the Remsen (G2) and finished a distant second to Never Gone South in the $74,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. at Laurel in two prior stakes appearances. His record now stands at 8-3-2-0, $117,560.
In the seven-furlong Wide Country, Great Soul rallied from mid-pack to edge Prognosis for a half-length score. It was two lengths back to 23-1 longshot Clare's Dowery, with 9-10 Karen's Silk disappointing on fourth after taking a brief lead in the stretch.
Last seen breaking her maiden by 2 1/2 lengths on New Year's Eve at Laurel going a mile, Great Soul covered the distance in 1:27.73 and paid $11.80 as the third choice in a field of eight. She's owned by co-breeder Steven Long, trained by Tim Keefe and was ridden by Trevor McCarthy. She now has earnings of $76,200 from a line of 3-2-1-0.
(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)