ELMONT, NY – Proving that his Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes victory was no fluke, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber’s Channel Maker earned the biggest score of his life Saturday when he took home the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Joe Hirsch is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Channel Maker receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Turf at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking alertly from post 8 under Jose Ortiz at odds of 5/1, Channel Maker quickly took command and crossed over to the rail before setting tepid fractions of :25.05, :50.52, 1:16.31, and 1:41.07 with Teodoro along his right hip. Beginning to separate from that foe in the far turn, Channel Maker hit the 1/4 pole with a slight lead over the hard-charging even-money favorite Robert Bruce. Ortiz roused Channel Maker, putting him to a drive in the final furlong as Robert Bruce struggled to dig into the yielding turf course. Drawing off late, the Bill Mott trainee crossed the wire in a final time of 2:30.73 for the 1 1/2-mile marathon event.
“He was relaxed the whole way around. He had been running well the last three races,” Ortiz said. “I rode him here (in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes on June 9), and he was in a bunch of trouble and only got beat 1 length. At the 3/8 pole, he was still pricking his ears, waiting for somebody to come. 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 relegated to second after making a failed attempt at the lead but was well clear of Sadler’s Joy, who closed to take third over Highland Sky. Teodoro faded in the stretch to finish fifth ahead of Carrick and Spring Quality to complete the order of finish. Hi Happy was scratched.
Channel Maker’s win was his second in a graded event and improved his overall record to 20-4-4-3. The 4-year-old gelded son of English Channel eclipsed the seven-figure mark in earnings after the $275,000 winner’s share of the purse pushed his bankroll to $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.”
Channel Maker returned $12 to win, $4 to place, and $2.90 to show. Robert Bruce brought back $3.10 to place and $2.40 to show, while Sadler’s Joy paid $3.20 to show.