Page McKen­ney looks to give fans a thrill

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - Front Page - By Mar­cus Hersh Fol­low Mar­cus Hersh on Twit­ter @DRFHersh

It’s fit­ting that on Ben’s Cat Day at Laurel Park an­other regional rac­ing star, Page McKen­ney, starts in the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes.

Page McKen­ney doesn’t have Ben’s Cat’s na­tional pro­file, but who knows? Maybe one day he’ll get there. Page McKenny may be a 7-year-old with 51 starts, but from all ap­pear­ances he’s still go­ing strong.

A Penn­syl­va­nia-bred by Eaves­drop­per out of the Yar­row Brae mare Win­ning Grace, Page McKen­ney out­ran his pedi­gree years ago. His ca­reer record is 20-15-4 from those 51 runs, his purse earn­ings are more than $1.75 mil­lion, and Page McKen­ney has won four of his seven starts this year.

Trained by Mary Ep­pler for own­ers Adam Sta­ple and the Jalin Sta­ble, Page McKen­ney missed the Richard Small last year but won the 2015 edi­tion and was sec­ond in 2014. He goes into Satur­day’s race, con­tested over 1 1/8 miles, off con­sec­u­tive wins. He won the $150,000 Penn­syl­va­nia Derby Cham­pion Stakes on Sept. 23 de­spite stum­bling.

For all that, Page McKen­ney is just one of many plau­si­ble win­ners in a 12-horse field that might tilt a lit­tle too heav­ily to­ward speed. Page McKen­ney doesn’t need to be on the lead but he tends to stick close, and the frac­tions Satur­day, likely to be set by All Out of Aces and Afleet Willy, could prove test­ing.

All Out of Aces is trained by Larry Jones, who also has No Dis­tor­tion for the Richard Small. No Dis­tor­tion hasn’t raced since win­ning the $50,000 Han­ford Me­mo­rial at Delaware Park on July 15, the first time this year he got close to his best 2016 form. No Dis­tor­tion rapped a ten­don and missed some time af­ter that race, trainer Larry Jones said, but has been work­ing fast.

“He’s shown a cou­ple times he can run a lot,” Jones said. “I still can’t get a read on him. I don’t know un­til the race is three-quar­ters over if he’s show­ing up or not.”

Wa­ter­shed also hasn’t started since July, but ex­its a se­ries of graded stakes starts and can win this with a re­peat of his Ben Ali Stakes score in April at Keeneland.

“Since he’s been away a bit, go­ing a mile and an eighth is tough, but we’re hop­ing the drop-back in class helps,” trainer Kiaran McLaugh­lin said. “He had a great work the other day. Lay­ing fourth or fifth would be per­fect.”

Just Call Kenny’s most re­cent start at 1 1/8 miles pro­duced a four-length win in the Grade 3 Iselin at Mon­mouth. Just Call Kenny has the right style for the likely race shape and doesn’t have to get all the way back to the Iselin peak to con­tend.

No stand­outs in Safely Kept

The­o­ret­i­cally, the $100,000 Safely Kept for 3-year-old fil­lies at seven fur­longs would have been a good spot for Your Love to re­turn to stakes com­pe­ti­tion, but the race drew 14 en­trants, in­clud­ing sev­eral of ap­par­ent qual­ity.

Trained by Chad Brown for Paul Pompa, Your Love de­buted in May, won her first two starts, but then fin­ished sixth in the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. A nar­row al­lowance race loss there was fol­lowed by a solid al­lowance win Oct. 25 at Bel­mont, and now it is back to stakes rac­ing for Your Love

But even with Brown in her cor­ner, some­thing like Your Love’s 5-2 morn­ing-line odds are tough to take in a field this deep. From the in­side out, Dawn the De­stroyer, Berned, Ms Lo­cust Point, Shim­mer­ing Aspen, and even A stroll in the park are worth a long look, all likely at longer odds than Your Love.

◗ The $75,000 Geisha for Mary­land-bred fil­lies and mares starts off Satur­day’s stakes ac­tion. My Ma­gi­cian is the 4-5 morn­ing-line favorite in this one-turn mile.

JUSTIN N. LANE

Page McKen­ney, un­der Ho­ra­cio Kara­manos, wins the Penn­syl­va­nia Derby Cham­pion Stakes at Parx on Sept. 23.

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