01/21/2017 5:42PM

Page McKenney ends hiatus with Native Dancer triumph

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Page McKenney had not raced since April before Saturday's Native Dancer.

The $75,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park might have been Page McKenney's first start in nine months, but he looked anything but rusty while scoring a 1 3/4-length win the 1 1/16-mile race for older horses.

Page McKenney, now 7, had not been postward since finishing second in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic last April. He was going to be favored in the $300,000 Pimlico Special in May, but trainer Mary Eppler scratched him the morning of the race due to swelling in a tendon.

The injury wasn't serious, but Eppler didn’t want to take any chances with her stable star and gave him plenty of time to recuperate. She handwalked him at her Pimlico barn for three months and then sent him to Nor Mar Farm in northern Maryland to regain his stamina on the facility's AquaTred. Eppler worked Page McKenney nine times in preparation for his comeback.

The Native Dancer was the 16th victory since Eppler and owner Adam Staple claimed him for $16,000 out of a sixth-place finish in a nonwinners-of-two at Penn National in July 2013. He now has earnings of $1.45 million.

Horacio Karamanos gave Page McKenney a smooth ride in the Native Dancer. He settled him off the early pace of Warrioroftheroses and Red Dragon Tattoo, took the lead outside Warrioroftheroses entering the stretch, drew clear, and then held the advantage.

The Native Dancer was the 14th straight time Karamanos has ridden Page McKenney, whose honesty has made him one of the most popular horses in the Mid-Atlantic region. The win was the third on the Saturday card for Karamanos.

Bodhisattva finished strongly in a belated bid to be second, a nose ahead of Cosmic Destiny in third.

Nellie Morse: McCarthy wins third straight stakes

Trevor McCarthy won his third consecutive stakes on the Saturday card at Laurel Park as he guided Winter to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 Nellie Morse Stakes.

McCarthy had previously won the Marshua Stakes with Star Super and the Frank Whiteley Jr. aboard High Roller. McCarthy was honored between races Saturday as the leading rider by wins on the Maryland Jockey Club circuit in 2016.

Winter is trained by Cal Lynch, who also trains Star Super.

McCarthy stalked early leaders Moon Virginia and Bawler Hon in the 1 1/16-mile Nellie Morse. She took the lead approaching the quarter pole and was not seriously challenged in the stretch.

Winter paid $9.40 as the second choice in the nine-horse field of fillies and mares. She was timed in 1:45.32.

Addibel Lightning finished second in the Nellie Morse, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place Moon Virginia, who held well after racing on the pace.

Bawler Hon, the 8-5 favorite, tired to finish fifth.

E Lizzy was pinched back at the start.