By Dick Jerardi
The two Parx $100,000 stakes on Monday featured 21 Pennsylvania breds with a combined 128 wins and $5,452,724 in earnings. The fields in The Page McKenney Handicap and The Unique Bella appeared very competitive on paper and turned out exactly that way on the track.
The races were named after two wonderful Pa. Breds, one of which was a Mid-Atlantic star and the other a national star. Page McKenney raced 58 times with 22 wins, 16 seconds and earnings of $1.9 million. The horse raced at 11 different tracks and stopped at Parx often enough to win seven times there. Unique Bella won Eclipse Awards in two divisions while winning three Grade I stakes, three Grade II and two Grade III on the way to earning $1.2 million in a 12-race career that included nine wins and two seconds.
The Page McKenney went first. The 7-furlong race came down to three Parx-based horses with impeccable credentials. Late money showed on I Am Redeemed to make him the 4-5 favorite. Beren, coming off a 2021 season when he earned just shy of $470,000, was 7-2. And Fortheluvofbourbon was 5-1.
I Am Redeemed was wide for much of the trip and got started too late so his big stretch move was only good enough for third. The race essentially was Beren and Fortheluvofbourbon from start to finish. Beren was tossing his head a bit in the gate and lost his footing for an instant at the break, but recovered quickly to get a clear lead. Fortheluvofbourbon broke smoothly and was just to Beren’s outside, the others chasing.
It was Parx Hall of Fame jockeys Frankie Pennington on Beren and Kendrick Carmouche on Fortheluvofbourbon, horses and riders getting away from the field on the far turn. In the stretch, it was Beren on the inside, Fortheluvofbourbon on the outside, Fortheluvofbourbon always just ahead, but Beren always threatening to come back and win it. In the end, it was Fortheluvofbourbon by a neck.
Mike Pino claimed Fortheluvofbourbon for $50,000 on May 29, 2020 at Churchill Downs. The Page McKenney was the horse’s sixth win (all at Parx) since the claim. The horse has earned $291,690 for Dan Ryan’s Smart Angle LLC, making him the 10th highest earner ever for Pino who is closing on 2,000 career wins, with 1,955 and counting.
“I got in a car and drove down and we got him,’’ Pino said when asked about the claim. “He’s been a great little horse. He tries hard. His last race, we kind of crammed a couple of races in a little quick. He just didn’t run his race. Give him a little time. This race set up perfect and it all worked out.’’
The day before he won the Page McKenney, Carmouche had clinched the spring Aqueduct meet with 19 winners from just 62 mounts (32 percent). It was his second New York title after winning the Aqueduct fall 2020 meet.
“All my loved ones, my wife, my kids, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister, in-laws, my fans, all my loved ones that stood behind me from Louisiana, they’re just so proud of me and I’m proud of myself,’’ Carmouche said. “I left (Parx) seven years ago to do good in New York. Here we go seven years later, I’ve got two titles to add on to my seven at Parx. I’m just loving the game. Each day, I want to go out and ride and compete That’s what it’s about.’’
Parx, Carmouche said, will always be home. That he won this race for Pino was especially gratifying
“Mike Pino is the one who got me started with my career in Oaklawn,’’ Carmouche said. “I’ll never forget the horse I won on, 99-1…and (Pino is) still supporting my career.’’
The Unique Bella, also at 7 furlongs, ended with the same margin, a neck. But it was not the same kind of race. Cinnabunny, once a Parx regular for trainer Kate Demasi before being sold privately in 2020, was given a perfect ride by Jorge Ruiz, caught frontrunning Hey Mamaluke in the stretch and held off a late charge by 42-1 Ninetypercentbrynn. Wildcat Cartridge (48-1) came on to be third.
Cinnabunny, the 2-1 favorite, was making just her second start for Greg Bentley’s Runnymore Racing LLC and trainer Cal Lynch, a Parx regular for years until he moved his stable to Maryland.
“I love it here,’’ Lynch said. “My boys grew up here for 10 years.’’
Bentley bought Cinabunny at the November 2021 Keeneland Breeding Stock Sale for $240,000 from the owners who had bought her privately back in 2020.
“She’s destined for our broodmare band, but we really thought that she wanted to continue to race,’’ Bentley said.
Cinanbunny had not raced since September when they ran her on March 7 in the Penn’s Landing at Parx. She finished fourth that day behind Hey Mamaluke. Both owner and trainer said her recent works at Fair Hill had been terrific so they returned to Parx with confidence.
“We were optimistic today that she would run back to her old form,’’ Lynch said.
Cinabunny did exactly that.
“It pays to be a Pa. Bred,’’ Bentley said
Trainer Butch Reid was two necks from winning both races as he trains Beren and Ninetypercentbrynn. It was the first start of 2022 for each so expect to see both in the winner’s circle a few times this year. As to the winners, it was career win No. 7 for each and there is plenty of time to get more before the year is over.