Updated on 05/19/2016 11:14AM

Page McKenney inherits role of favorite in Pimlico Special

Coady Photography
Page McKenney (left) finishes second to Stanford in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic in April.

The Thursday defection of morning-line favorite Stanford from the $300,000 Pimlico Special makes fan favorite Page McKenney a solid choice in a seven-horse field.

Page McKenney is a folk hero of sorts in the Mid-Atlantic region. Claimed for $16,000 in July 2013 by owner Adam Staple, he has since won 15 races and $1.38 million. He has not finished worse than third in 24 straight races dating to April 2014.

Page McKenney is based year-round at Pimlico with trainer Mary Eppler. Because of the short Pimlico season, he only gets to race at his home track once a year. In 2015, he finished second in the Grade 3 Special to the Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner.

On Thursday, Pletcher said Stanford would not make the trip from New York to Maryland and would instead be pointed to the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day.

Page McKenney comes into the Special off a runner-up effort to Stanford in the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic. Stanford broke alertly that day, and Javier Castellano put him right on the lead.

Page McKenney also had a clean start and took up a stalking position to Stanford’s outside. Stanford clipped off comfortable fractions in the three-turn, 1 1/8-mile race and bested Page McKenney and jockey Horacio Karamanos by two lengths.

“At Charles Town, we laid second, and we finished second, but that’s not really the way he wants to run, I don’t think,” Eppler said. “I mean, he can do it, but from the 9 hole, we had to break decent to get some kind of a trip.”

The pace on Saturday will likely be set by longshot Warrioroftheroses, with expected second choice Noble Bird not far behind. Page McKenney should be able to sit back early before making his move.

According to Eppler, Page McKenney came out of the Charles Town Classic in top shape.

“He never misses an oat,” she said.

Eppler plans to also run Golden Glint, whom she claimed for $32,000 in March. He has since won a third-level optional race.

“I’m going to run them both,” Eppler said. “The other one is doing great.”

Pletcher said Savoy Stomp, his other entrant in the Special, will run. Savoy Stomp won a second-level optional race at Gulfstream Park in March

Pimlico Special, Race 7

Key Contenders

Page McKenney, by Eavesdropper

Last 3 Beyers: 101-101-97

◗ Is having his best season at age 6, having won the $250,000 General George at seven furlongs and the Native Dancer Stakes at 1 1/16 miles prior to the Charles Town Classic.

◗ This will be the 15th time in Page McKenney's last 16 races that he has been ridden by Horacio Karamanos.

Noble Bird, by Birdstone

Last 3 Beyers: 81-99-74

◗ His Alysheba effort as the 2-1 favorite is a total throw-out. He hopped at the start to get away behind the field, then became rank on the first turn and fought jockey Julien Leparoux up the backstretch before tiring. His runner-up effort to Eagle in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland two starts back is much more indicative of his ability.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 7 Noble Bird. Trainer Mark Casse is 16-1-2-3 with a $0.22 ROI over the past five years on dirt with horses returning 14 days or fewer after the previous start. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Idolo Porteno, by Jump Start

Last 2 Beyers: 76-89

◗ Argentine import trained by Ignacio Correas may outrun his odds. He will be shortening up in distance and returning to the main track after tiring in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland. In his North American debut at Oaklawn Park, he finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Upstart, in the Grade 3 Razorback.