SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s Channel Maker took the field all the way around the course before winning Saturday’s $500,000 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
The Sword Dancer is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Channel Maker receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Turf at Keeneland this November.
Channel Maker was relatively ignored at the betting window, breaking from post 4 under Manny Franco at 8/1 odds before outkicking Marzo (one of three from trainer Mike Maker) heading into the far turn for the first time.
Creating distance between himself and the rest of the field, Channel Maker set unpressured fractions of :25.10, :51.14, 1:17.27, and 1:42.33 through the opening mile and was still in command as he straightened for home.
While everyone else struggled to make up ground over the soft inner turf, Channel Maker drew off impressively in the stretch before crossing 5 3/4 lengths clear, completing the 1 1/2-mile event in a final time of 2:34.86.
“I made the lead and tried to open up to let them know I wanted to go and they let me go,” Franco said. “It worked out good for me.”
Maker’s other two runners took second and third after Cross Border (the narrow 3/1 favorite) shot past Aquaphobia in mid-stretch. Sadler’s Joy, the 2017 champion, closed as best as he could from last before crossing fourth.
Corelli, Pedro Cara, and Marzo completed the strung-out order of finish.
Highland Sky‘s connections scratched him due to the turf course’s soft going.
Channel Maker’s win was his first since taking the 2019 Man O’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park and improved his overall record to 35-6-5-4 with $2,464,051 earned for co-owners Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R. A. Hill Stable, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing.
The Ontario-bred 6-year-old English Channel gelding has a 7-4-0-0 mark on turf courses rated less than firm and will hope that a third straight trip to the World Championships’ top grass event results in a better showing than his prior attempts – he was 11th in 2018 and 12th last year.
“That water gets very deep,” said Mott, who shortly after the race remained noncommittal for the Breeders’ Cup. “We’ve tried it a couple times and it hasn’t worked out with him. You get a whole different group of horses. But who knows? There was a year at Keeneland where it was a bottomless ground, and if that situation came up, maybe he would benefit from it.”
Channel Maker returned $18 to win, $7.30 to place, and $4.60 to show. Cross Border brought back $4.60 to place and $3 to show, while Aquaphobia paid $4 to show.