Page McKenney, Divining Rod among salty noms to Laurel stakes

by | Aug 4, 2017 | Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing

Page McKenney

Page McKenney won the Native Dancer Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Multiple-stakes winners Divining Rod, claimer-turned-millionaire Page McKenney and Lovable Lady are among 55 horses nominated to a pair of sprint stakes worth $150,000 in purses Saturday, Aug. 12 at Laurel Park.

Lael Stables homebred Divining Rod, trained by Arnaud Delacour, is expected to make his 5-year-old debut in the $75,000 Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs. Unraced since being beaten by a head in the Cigar Mile (G1) in late November, Divining Rod won the 2015 Lexington (G3) and was third in that year’s Preakness (G1) behind Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. He ran only four times last year, including a runner-up finish in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland.

Page McKenney, based at historic Pimlico Race Course with trainer Mary Eppler, has alternated finishing first and second in his four 2017 starts, winning the Native Dancer Jan. 21 at Laurel and the seven-furlong Lyman against fellow Pennsylvania-breds April 29 at Parx. In his most recent effort, the 7-year-old gelding and earner of nearly $1.6 million was second to Matt King Coal in the 1 1/8-mile Mountainview June 3 at Penn National.

Another millionaire among the 27 Polynesian nominees is New York-based Stallwalkin’ Dude, a career winner of 18 races whose seven stakes victories include the 2016 Bold Ruler at Belmont Park. He has raced in two Laurel Park stakes, finishing fourth in the 2015 De Francis Memorial Dash and second in the General George (G3) in February.

Always Sunshine, winner of the 2016 Maryland Sprint (G3); multiple stakes winners Bucchero, Never Gone South, No Distortion and Royal Squeeze; stakes winners Clear the Runway, Struth and The Truth or Else; and Grade 3-placed Colonel Sharp, Rockinn On Bye and We Deer You are also nominated.

Eppler-trained Lovable Lady, a Laurel stakes winner on turf and dirt and most recently second by a neck in defense of her 2016 Jameela victory June 24, tops 28 nominees to the $75,000 Twixt for fillies and mares, also at seven furlongs.

Lovable Lady has gone winless in four starts since a runaway victory in the Willa On the Move last December to close her 5-year-old campaign. She has yet to win at seven furlongs in three career tries but is 12-for-16 in the money lifetime at Laurel, including six wins.

Hillwood Stable’s Shimmering Aspen, an impressive 5 ¾-length winner of the Alma North over a good main track June 17 at Laurel last time out, is one of four 3-year-old fillies nominated. She has won four of her last five starts, all at sprint distances; the lone exception came when seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 19 at Pimlico.

Also among the nominees are multiple stakes winners Discreet Senorita, Sweet On Smokey and Who’s the Lady; Improv, second by a neck in the Matron (G3) two starts back; Line of Best Fit, third by three lengths at 35-1 behind Songbird in the Delaware Handicap (G1) last out; multiple graded stakes-placed Mayla and Sweetgrass; and Gerald Brooks-trained Sky Flower, a winner of five straight races over the artificial surface at Presque Isle Downs.