Page McKenney looks to give fans a thrill
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.
Page McKenney, under Horacio Karamanos, wins the Pennsylvania Derby Champion Stakes at Parx on Sept. 23.