by Frank Vespe

What we learned during Saturday’s four stakes at Laurel Park:

  • Page McKenney is all that — and has plenty of options.  The Pennsylvania-bred Eddington gelding continued to terrorize the local stakes competition Saturday with an easy score in the Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes.  He’s now won two straight added-money events at Laurel and pushed his career earnings beyond the $500,000 mark.  From here, trainer Mary Eppler and her charge have plenty of options.  After the race, she mentioned the Grade 3 Pimlico Special over Preakness weekend as one solid possibility.  But the she also mentioned the grassy Henry S. Clark as an interim step — last year Page McKenney set the Parx track record at 1 mile 70 yards on the lawn — and the horse is among 56 nominated to next month’s Grade 2, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic.  Not a bad spot to be with a horse who in mid-2013 was a $16,000 claim.
  • There’s a Maryland-bred whose connections are talking about the Triple Crown — just not the one we thought it was.  Prior to Saturday’s Private Terms Stakes for sophomores, Gary Contessa, trainer of Maryland-bred Combat Diver, spoke hopefully of a future trip to Louisville.  “If he wins, we have eight weeks to get enough points to get into the [Kentucky] Derby,” he said then.  After Saturday’s race, however, it was Jeremiah Englehart, trainer of the other Maryland-bred in the race, who had bigger game in sight.  His trainee, Bridget’s Big Luvy, zipped to the lead as soon as the gates opened and never looked back, posting a solid two-length victory.  It was the first stakes win for the son of Tiz Wonderful, bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm.  “I get caught up like everyone else this time of year…it’s a special time of year,” Englehart said.  “I would like to be part of the talk and the fun surrounding (the Triple Crown).”
  • Like sister, like brother… Bridget’s Big Luvy, out of the Dixie Union mare Memories of Mystic, is a half-brother to another stakes winner, the mare Mystic Love.  The two have a brand new sib, a week-old Midnight Lute colt, said David Hayden who, along with wife JoAnn, owns Dark Hollow.
  • Like the energizer bunny…  Jockey Angel Cruz on Bridget’s Big Luvy’s effort: “When I asked him to go, he just kept going!”
  • By the Moon’s back… maybe.  The Grade 1-winning daughter of Indian Charlie registered her first win since her G1 score last October, in the Frizette when she took the Caesar’s Wish comfortably over six rivals at 9-10 odds.  Trained by Michelle Nevin, By the Moon has now won three of six career starts and nearly a half-million dollars.  As for the future, look for her to stretch out.  “In order to move forward in some of these big races, she is going to have to handle two turns,” said Nevin’s assistant, Larry Kelly.  Her breeding — she’s out of stakes winner By the Light, by Malibu Moon — says that shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Blinkers? Blinkers!  Eddy Gourmet — winner of five of her 24 career races — ran her record to two-for-two with blinkers on, with a nearly eight-length score in the Conniver, for Maryland-bred fillies and mares.  She earned a career-best 90 Beyer speed figure in cruising to the win — faster than either By the Moon or Bridget’s Big Luvy — and completed seven furlongs in a solid 1:23.50.  “A pleasant surprise,” trainer Hugh McMahon called it.
Frank Vespe, the founder of The Racing Biz, has owned, bought, sold, claimed, and written about horses, in varying combinations, for a decade.