01/02/2016 5:02PM

Page McKenney wins Native Dancer to reach seven figures

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Maryland Jockey Club photo
Page McKenney, with Horatio Karamanos aboard, wins the Native Dancer Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths Saturday.

It wasn’t pretty, but Page McKenney became a millionaire by winning the $75,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park on Saturday.

Sent off at 2-5, Page McKenney broke sharply from post 1 and raced on the early lead inside Warrioroftheroses. Jockey Horacio Karamanos didn’t want him on the pace, though, and took a hold on the first turn. Seconds later, three horses swept by on the outside, and early on the backstretch, Page McKenney was last in the six-horse field, with a horse to his outside.

After a half-mile, Karamanos asked Page McKenney to run, and he advanced on the inside. Karamanos took him three wide on the far turn, and Page McKenney accelerated into contention. He took the lead outside of Warrioroftheroses nearing the furlong pole and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths under a moderate hand ride.

“He’s Page McKenney,” Karamanos said. “You can do anything you want with him.”

Trainer Mary Eppler was a little more concerned during the race, just as some bettors must have been.

“I thought we were going to get boxed in,” Eppler said.

Page McKenney has now won 14 races for owner Adam Staple and Eppler since they claimed him for $16,000 out of a sixth-place finish at Penn National in July 2013. He has earned $995,000 for Staple and is now a millionaire with total earnings of $1,021,978.

Page McKenney has finished third or better in his last 22 races dating to April 2014. He paid $2.80 in the Native Dancer and was timed in 1:44.70 for 1 1/16 miles. Page McKenney seems primed for an excellent 6-year-old season.

“I think he is getting better,” Eppler said.

Golden Glint finished second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Warrioroftheroses. Second choice Catron lacked a rally and finished fourth, a length farther back.

Nellie Morse: Love Came to Town reels in Brenda’s Way

Love Came to Town came into the $75,000 Nellie Morse Stakes off three straight second-place finishes, and when Brenda’s Way expanded her lead to more than a dozen lengths on the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, it looked like Love Came to Town would be lucky to keep her streak going.

But jockey Mychel Sanchez, who had Love Came to Town sitting in third, timed his move perfectly, advancing in hand nearing the stretch, and Love Came to Town cruised to the lead outside of Brenda’s Way in midstretch.
Love Came to Town won by 5 1/2 lengths, giving Sanchez his first stakes win.

Love Came to Town was bred in New Jersey and is trained by Kevin Sleeter. His father, Gerald, is the owner.

“That speed horse was out there pretty far on the turn,” Kevin Sleeter said. “But Mychel breezes her and knows her well. He rode a good race.”

Sleeter said Love Came to Town, a 4-year-old who is now 6 for 14 with earnings of $272,744, would be considered for the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie, a seven-furlong race at Laurel on Feb. 13.

Brenda’s Way held second by 4 1/4 lengths over Playful Love. Miss Mischief, the even-money favorite, was never in the hunt and finished seventh.

Love Came to Town paid $7 as the second choice and was timed in 1:45.50. She is the first foal out of Talkin About Love, who was bred, owned, and trained by Sleeter. Talkin About Love raced from ages 2 to 6, won three stakes, and earned $741,000.

What A Summer: Sweet On Smokey wins first stakes

Sweet On Smokey has improved markedly since being claimed at Monmouth Park in July by trainer Claudio Gonzalez, and on Saturday, she won her first stakes in the $75,000 What A Summer.

Sweet On Smokey is now 4 for 8 since joining the Gonzalez barn. In the six-furlong What A Summer, she stalked the pacesetting Raging Smoke early under jockey Victor Carrasco, moved up to challenge on the far turn, edged away in upper stretch, and scored by 2 1/2 lengths.

Sweet On Smokey, a 4-year-old, is now 7 for 23 in her career. She paid $6.60 to win as the favorite in the seven-horse What A Summer and was timed in 1:11.05.

Raging Smoke finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place E Dubai’s Humor, who moved into a contending position three wide on the far turn but flattened out in the stretch.