Thriving in the soft conditions, Channel Maker led every step of the way in Saturday’s $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park. The 1 1/2-mile event was a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), a race Channel Maker’s sire, English Channel, won in 2007.
Under Jose Ortiz, Channel Maker repelled a mid-race challenge from European invader Teodoro and a stretch bid from Arlington Million (G1) winner and favorite Robert Bruce to win by 4 1/2 lengths in a time of 2:30.73 on the Widener Turf. Owned by Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber, the Bill Mott trainee paid $12.
“At the three-eighths pole, he was still pricking his ears, waiting for somebody to come,” Ortiz said. “When we left the 5 horse [Teodoro], he was waiting for somebody to come and no one came. When I asked him to go, he responded beautifully.”
Robert Bruce was a clear second in the strung-out field, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Sadler’s Joy. Highland Sky, Teodoro, Carrick, and Spring Quality rounded out the order of finish.
Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, Channel Maker won the restricted Vandal at two and the classic Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine last season. Later placing in the Hollywood Derby (G1) and Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), Channel Maker dead-heated for first with Glorious Empire in the Bowling Green (G2) two back, but finished second to that front-running rival last time in the Sword Dancer (G1). His record now stands at 20-4-4-3, $1,090,000.
“A horse couldn’t be doing better than he’s been doing,” Mott said. “I don’t know if he can stay this good for another four or five weeks. But he’s just gotten better and better since we had those two runs at Saratoga. He’s been hard to hold on the ground. Put it this way, he needed to run. I’m glad we didn’t have to wait another four or five weeks to run.”
Produced by the stakes-winning Horse Chestnut mare In Return, Channel Maker is a full brother to dual Northern Dancer Turf (G1) winner Johnny Bear. Also hailing from this family are Grade 1 winners Auntie Mame and Star de Lady Ann.
In the $200,000 Pilgrim (G3), a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Forty Under wore down Somelikeithotbrown late to win by three parts of a length under Manny Franco, covering 1 1/16 miles on the yielding inner turf in 1:44.37.
“I expected to be closer to the pace, but the horse broke a step slow, so I used plan B, stay inside, save some ground and wait for the moment,” Franco said. “He’s a different horse on turf. He loves it. (After his debut race) I told the trainer, ‘Put him on grass.’ That’s what we did and he won at Saratoga.”
Owned by August Dawn Farm and trained by Jeremiah Englehart, Forty Under paid $10.80. Finishing third was Social Paranoia, with 17-10 favorite Opry fourth.
“After his maiden race, he took the right steps forward,” Englehart said. “One advantage he has even on the softer turf, he’s not a real big thick horse. He’s slender, good size, but still pretty slick, not a big horse. He’s a nice horse.”
Ninth in his debut going six furlongs on dirt, Forty Under sprung a 20-1 upset in his turf debut last time at Saratoga, beating maiden foes by 1 1/2 lengths. He’s now earned $157,386.
By Uncle Mo, Forty Under is out of the multiple stakes-winning Argent Affair, by Black Tie Affair.