SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Calumet Farm’s homebred Channel Cat, twice a stakes winner at age 3 last year, finally broke through for his first graded triumph in Saturday’s $250,000 Bowling Green Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.
Dismissed as he broke from post 10 under Luis Saez at 13/1 odds, Channel Cat quickly asserted himself up front, opening up by multiple lengths as the field completed the far turn for the first time. Running virtually unchallenged for the opening mile, Channel Cat was allowed to post comfortable fractions of :24.66, :49.87, 1:15.52, and 1:39.14.
Given the cue as he straightened for home for the final time, Channel Cat soon came under pressure after Ya Primo cut the corner sharply to appear along his inside, while Arklow and defending champion Channel Maker went wide.
Despite the constant pressure and even though he drifted out slightly near the 1/16 pole, Channel Cat proved too tough. The game Todd Pletcher trainee fought valiantly through to the wire to triumph by a 1/2-length in a final time of 2:14.43 for the 1 3/8-mile event over the firm inner turf course.
“He’s a game horse,” Saez said. “He fought and took the lead, and when they came to him in the stretch, he kept fighting. I know a couple horses had a little speed, but he put me in that position. I knew he had a shot to win the race. I saw them coming, but he responded and got to the wire first.”
A five-horse photo for second ultimately went to Ya Primo by a head over Arklow, with Channel Maker and Zulu Alpha each a neck behind him. Sadler’s Joy was blocked several times in the lane and couldn’t close better than sixth, though he missed Zulu Alpha by only a head.
Olympico, Focus Group, Highland Sky, Argonne, Catcho En Die, and Red Knight completed the order of finish. Bigger Picture was scratched.
Channel Cat’s win was his first since winning back-to-back stakes races at Kentucky Downs and Laurel Park. The 4-year-old son of Calumet Farm’s stallion English Channel improved his record to 16-5-2-3 with $738,292.
“We wanted to get away cleanly and get some position going into the first turn, and it’s not a real long run going into the first turn going a mile and 3/8,” Pletcher said. “We didn’t want to get hung out on three turns, but he kind of caught a flyer and relaxed, and Luis was riding with so much confidence. When you make a decision like that, sometimes it works out. It was unfolding the right way. I was a little concerned when they turned up the backside. (Argonne) put on a little earlier pressure and I was hoping Luis could steal another 1/4 mile or so before he had to start engaging. So, to his credit, he put in a long and sustained run.”
Channel Cat returned $29.20 to win, $11.60 to place, and $7.40 to show. Ya Primo brought back $5.80 to place and $4.50 to show, while Arklow paid $3.60 to show.