04/18/2016 10:56AM

Page McKenney well rested for Charles Town Classic

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Page McKenney enters the Charles Town Classic off a win in the seven-furlong General George in February.

The Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on Saturday has long been the spring goal for Page McKenney. But his path to the $1.25 million race has changed several times, and he comes into the 1 1/8-mile Classic off a seven-furlong sprint and a 10-week break.

Now 6, Page McKenney has won five of his last six races for owner Adam Staple and trainer Mary Eppler. He was beaten a nose after stumbling at the start of his lone loss during that stretch.

Page McKenney began 2016 by winning the $75,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park in January. He then was cross-entered in the $75,000 John Campbell, a 1 1/8-mile race, and the $250,000 General George at seven furlongs during Laurel’s winter carnival in February. His connections chose well, and in his first one-turn start since December 2013, Page McKenney got up to win the Grade 3 General George by a head.

Page McKenney was scheduled to have his final prep for the Charles Town Classic in the $75,000 Harrison Johnson Memorial at Laurel on March 19, but the race failed to fill, primarily because he was entered. Staple and Eppler considered sending Page McKenney to the following week’s New Orleans Handicap but, in the end, decided to stay home.

“I’m actually not sorry the race didn’t go,” Eppler said. “He was coming off a sprint, which is rare for him, and the break gave him a chance to relax and stretch out a little. I’m comfortable training him up to this race.”

Page McKenney has had three five-furlong works at Pimlico since April 2, and Eppler is pleased with how he is coming into this weekend.

“When the Johnson didn’t go, I just trained him without a work for a while,” she said. “Then I worked him easy, and then a little faster, and then again on Saturday.”

The Pimlico track plays slower than many surfaces. Page McKenney’s five-furlong time of 1:02.20 on Saturday was the second-fastest of six at the distance.

“It was a normal work for him a week before a race,” Eppler said. “He got his final quarter in 25 and change. I never work him fast.”

Staple and Eppler claimed Page McKenney for $16,000 at Penn National in July 2013. He had one career win at the time.

Page McKenney has since won 15 times and went over $1 million in earnings in January. Over the last two years, he has finished third or better in 23 consecutive races.

Page McKenney finished third to Moreno and Imperative in last year’s Classic. He’ll ship to Charles Town on Saturday morning.

“It’s going to be a tough race, but he’s doing very well,” Eppler said.

As of Monday, a field of nine was expected for the Classic. Donworth, Imperative, and Hard Aces, who all last ran in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, will be in from California. Todd Pletcher will start Stanford, who most recently finished second by a head in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Mike Maker plans to run both S’maverlous and International Star, the first- and third-place finishers in the New Orleans Handicap.

Sonny Inspired, a winner of two stakes in his last three starts, and Looks to Spare round out the prospective field.