December 3, 2020

Channel Maker relishes soft going in Sword Dancer; Bye Bye Melvin upsets Saranac

Channel Maker
Channel Maker wins the Sword Dancer Stakes (Coglianese Photos)

Channel Maker notched a third lifetime Grade 1 tally and earned a berth in November’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland with a wire-to-wire victory in the $500,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday.

Contested over an inner turf made soft by multiple deluges of rain throughout the afternoon, the 6-year-old gelding was sent immediately to the front by jockey Manny Franco, set a dawdling pace in keeping with the prevailing conditions, and kicked clear in the final quarter-mile to win by 5 3/4 lengths in a time of 2:34.86 for 1 1/2 miles.

“We thought Marzo could be on the lead and we might be laying second, but opportunity presented itself for him to be on the lead and the jockey accepted the opportunity and it worked out very well,” said Bill Mott, who trains Channel Maker for Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R. A. Hill Stable, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. “Sometimes, you make the right decision and it worked out well today.”

Channel Maker paid $18. Cross Border, the 3-1 favorite finished a clear second in the strung-out field, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Aquaphobia. The order of finish was completed by Sadler’s Joy, Corelli, Pedro Cara, and Marzo.

Channel Maker paid $18. Cross Border, the 3-1 favorite finished a clear second in the strung-out field, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Aquaphobia. The order of finish was completed by Sadler’s Joy, Corelli, Pedro Cara, and Marzo.

This was the first victory for Channel Maker since a photo-finish score in the Man o’  War (G1) at Belmont Park in May 2019. Channel Maker captured the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Bowling Green (G2) in 2018, and had won two stakes in Canada before then, including the classic Breeders’ Stakes in 2017, the year he was honored with a Sovereign Award as Canada’s leading turf horse.

Channel Maker had placed just once in 10 starts since last year’s Man o’ War, a close second in his Turf Classic title defense in October. The Breeders’ Cup has not been kind to Channel Maker the past two seasons as he was a well-beaten 11th of 13 in the the 2018 renewal at Churchill Downs and last of 12 in 2019 at Santa Anita. His record now stands at 35-6-5-4, $2,494,051.

Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, Channel Maker is by Breeders’ Cup Turf winner and champion English Channel. His stakes-winning dam by Horse Chestnut, In Return, has also produced full brother Johnny Bear, a Canadian turf champion, and a stakes-winning half-brother Court Return.

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Bye Bye Melvin
Bye Bye Melvin wins the Saranac Stakes (Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand)

Although he came under a drive from John Velazquez before the quarter pole when seemingly spinning his wheels in third behind the front-running favorite Don Juan Kitten, Bye Bye Melvin eventually responded down the stretch and caught long-time leader in the shadow of the wire to take the $100,000 Saranac Stakes (G3) over the Mellon turf hit hard by rain right before post.

“He was lugging in down the stretch and I had to get after him, and he was slipping and sliding but he was good enough to get there,” Velazquez said. “He was trying as hard as he could, but at the same time he was slipping. But he got there anyways.”

Sporting blinkers for the first time, Bye Bye Melvin won by a head in a time of 1:39.92 over soft ground. Bred in Kentucky by owner Alex Campbell Jr. and trained by Graham Motion, he paid $41. Don Juan Kitten, favored at 2-1, had 2 1/2 lengths on Bodecream. Completing the order of finish were Embolden, Irish Mias, Three Technique, L’Imperator, and Vanzzy.

This was the first stakes win for Bye Bye Melvin, who had previously run 10th in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), seventh in the Kent (G3), and second in the Jersey Derby. Winner of two overnight events on turf at Tampa Bay Downs last winter, Bye Bye Melvin now sports a line of 9-3-1-1, $107,965.

“He’s a late developer,” Motion said. “He’s been a little bit of a project in that way, but I’m not surprised with the way he ran He slugs it out and he obviously handled the soft turf better than most.”

By Uncle Mo, Bye Bye Melvin was produced by Ashland (G1) winner Karlovy Vary, by Dynaformer. Bye Bye Melvin’s half-sister, Mean Mary, won the New York (G2) and Orchid (G3) earlier this year and narrowly missed to Rushing Fall in the recent Diana (G1) at Saratoga.