It was the 15th win and eighth career stakes victory for the amazingly consistent Page McKenney, who was claimed by his connections for $16,000 at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in July 2013 and developed into a solid stakes competitor for trainer Mary Eppler.
"What can you say?" Eppler said after the Native Dancer. "It means a lot. He just shows up every time."
Bred in Pennsylvania by Dr. James Bryant and Linda Davis, the 6-year-old gelding by Eavesdropper out of the Yarrow Brae mare Winning Grace placed in graded stakes three times in 2015 with a third-place finishes in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) and Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III), and a second in the Pimlico Special (gr. II).
The $45,000 winner's share of the Native Dancer purse pushed Page McKenney's earnings to $1,021,978 from 41 starts dating back to July 2012 at Colonial Downs.
Regular rider Horacio Karamanos sent Page McKenney to the front from post 1 in the 1 1/16-mile Native Dancer but quickly allowed Warrioroftheroses to take the lead. When Bellarmine and Golden Glint made early bids to gain position, Page McKenney was shuffled back to last in the six-horse field.
Karamanos bided his time as Page McKenney picked up a couple lengths along the rail, angled him outside on the far turn, and the gelding quickly ranged up to tackle and then pass Warrioroftheroses. He won by 3 1/2 lengths over Golden Glint in 1:44.70 on a track rated fast and paid $2.80 to win as the heavy favorite. Warrioroftheroses was third and Catron fourth.
"With him you can do whatever you want," Karamamos said. "I feel free to ride him however I decide. When I saw horses running away from me (on the backstretch), I asked him. He was coming like a machine."