Spooky Channel has proven this winter at Fair Grounds that there’s still plenty of run left in his eight-year-old legs. On Saturday, the veteran gelding scored the biggest win of his career in the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) over a firm turf, denying longshot pacesetter Rising Empire by a half-length.
The complexion of the race changed when Two Emmys, the 2022 Muniz Memorial winner and expected pacesetter, was scratched during the warm-up period on the track. Rather than trying to go for the lead himself, jockey Joel Rosario decided to let Spooky Channel do what he does best and make one late run.
Rising Empire opened up a comfortable lead on the backside and still had a two-length advantage in midstretch, but Spooky Channel had too much class for that stakes newcomer and gained the edge approaching the wire.
“He runs so much better with cover,” winning trainer Jason Barkley said. “He relaxes, he finishes. He’ll run all day on the lead, but he doesn’t have a kick.”
Owned by NBS Stable, who claimed him for $80,000 in April 2021, Spooky Channel returned $9.20 as the second choice in a field of nine. The final time for about nine furlongs was 1:54.11.
Rising Empire finished second by 3 1/4 lengths over Gentle Soul. The order of finish was rounded out by Another Mystery, English Tavern, Risk Manager, Tiz the Bomb, Native Thunder, and 9-10 favorite Atone, the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) winner.
This was the fourth stakes in the last five starts for Spooky Channel, who returned from a 14-month spell in December to take the Diliberto Memorial at Fair Grounds and followed up with a third-place effort in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston. Prior to that injury-forced layoff, Spooky Channel had taken the Remington Green S. and Sycamore (G3) in the fall of 2021.
For his previous connections, Spooky Channel had earned Grade 3 wins in the 2021 Connally Turf Cup and the 2020 W.L. McKnight at Gulfstream. He’s now won 13 of 28 starts lifetime with earnings of $862,842.
Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Spooky Channel is by English Channel and out of the multiple stakes-placed Spooky Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy.
The open stakes action kicked off Saturday with Didia maintaining her undefeated record in the U.S. with a 1 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial over 19-10 favorite Adventuring.
A multiple Grade 1 winner in her native Argentina, Didia debuted for new trainer Ignacio Correas at Colonial Downs last summer. After taking her stateside opener by a length in a conditioned allowance, Didia beat a quality field in the Old Nelson S. by neck.
Showing few effects of a layoff exceeding seven months, Didia rallied from midpack to take the Benson Memorial, her seventh win in 10 lifetime starts, in a time of 1:46.37 for about 1 1/16 miles on the turf. The third choice in a field of 10 fillies and mares, she returned $9.40.
“Today I had a good trip,” said winning jockey Vincent Cheminaud. “After a long time she needed to be a little more relaxed. The pace was very good for her and she finished well.”
Adventuring finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Grade 2 winner New Year’s Eve, who was making her first start since early September. She Can’t Sing, the 2022 Benson Memorial winner, ran fourth.
Owned by Merribelle Stable, Didia is a five-year-old by Orpen and out of the Group 1-placed Delambre, by Rainbow Corner. Delambre is also the second dam of Argentinean Horse of the Year Tetaze.