From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney registered his first victory in nine starts over the Laurel main track Saturday, capturing the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap with a late stretch run.
The ultra-consistent 5-year-old gelding, who came into the 1 1/8-mile event with a record of nine wins and nine seconds in 31 lifetime races, had only four second-place finishes and a third to show for his previous Laurel Park experience. However, the Mary Eppler-trained gelding fought hard Saturday to finally get to the winner’s circle first.
“This horse is so honest. He does everything you ask of him. He has a great heart and he is the easiest horse to train,” Eppler said. “Horacio has always ridden him well and rides him whenever he is in Maryland. I wasn’t really planning on this race. I sort of got backed into it and it worked out. I think he has been off the board twice since I had him.”
The 3-1 favorite was rated off the pace by jockey Horacio Karamanos as Cerro set fractions of 24.74 seconds, 48.56 and 1:12.82 for the first six furlongs. Turning into the stretch, Karamanos asked the devout closer for his run and the son of Eavesdropper responded to out-finish Behemoth by a neck. Behemoth, a 19-1 longshot ridden by Jose Ortiz, finished another head over A.P. Cino, a 70-1 outsider ridden by Kaylia Albright.
“This horse is unbelievable. He broke sharp and showed early speed. I didn’t want to go to lead because I didn’t want to fight with leader at beginning of the race. So I took position right behind where he was nice and comfortable,” said Karamanos, who came right back to capture the Barbara Fritchie aboard Lady Sabelia. “Turning for home he picked it up and had a nice kick to end. Today he showed me he has a big heart.”
Page McKenney, the co-starting highweight with also-ran Sailor’s Revenge at 115 pounds, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.88. Claimed for $16,000 in 2013, the Pennsylvania-bred gelding earned $60,000 to push his career earnings to nearly $450,000. The Campbell was Page McKenney’s first start since finishing a close second in the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 6.