ELMONT, N.Y. – Though his victory in Saturday’s Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park was just his fourth from 20 career starts, Channel Maker had for a long time shown glimpses of being capable at this level.
Last year, Channel Maker won the Breeders’ Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Woodbine and the third leg of Canada’s Triple Crown. He was beaten one length in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last fall and one length in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile in March.
“He was the victim of some bad trips,” trainer Bill Mott said Sunday. “He’d been coming from way back.”
Channel Maker makes his own trips now, and on Saturday he led the Joe Hirsch field virtually every step of the way, turning back an early challenge from Teodoro and then a later challenge from Robert Bruce, the Arlington Million winner and Joe Hirsch favorite, to win the Hirsch by 4 1/2 lengths.
“At one moment it looked like they were going to wind up joining up and he just opened back up,” Mott said, referring to Robert Bruce and Channel Maker. “That part was gratifying to see. It’s the type of effort you like to see every time but you don’t always get.”
Channel Maker, who dead-heated for a win with Glorious Empire in the Bowling Green and finished second to Glorious Empire in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga, earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure for the Joe Hirsch and a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
It was Mott’s third victory in this race. He won it in 1987 with Theatrical, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Mott also won it in 2005 with Shakespeare, who finished next-to-last in the BC Turf.
Mott said the victory was also significant to him because the race was named for former Daily Racing Form columnist Joe Hirsch, who died in 2009.
“He was one of my favorite people,” Mott said. “Sometimes, people forget the significance of the name of the race. He was a wonderful guy.”
Mott shipped Channel Maker back to Saratoga on Sunday afternoon. Mott also has Classic hopeful Yoshida training in Saratoga. Mott said he is not yet sure when he will ship both to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup.
Mott also isn’t sure what his rider situation will be on Channel Maker. Jose Ortiz rode him Saturday, but he was substituting for Joel Rosario, who rode Accelerate to victory in the Grade 1 Awesome Again.
Meanwhile, trainer Chad Brown said he is inclined to continue on to the Turf with Robert Bruce. Brown believes Robert Bruce was compromised by the slow pace and soft turf.
“He lost his action in the middle of the stretch like some ground broke out from under him,” Brown said. “I’m confident he can get a mile and a half. He just needs firmer ground and a little better pace setup.”
Trainer Tom Albertrani said no decision has been made on the Breeders’ Cup for Sadler’s Joy, who finished third in the Joe Hirsch.
“Javier [Castellano] said he wasn’t getting a great hold of it,” Albertrani said. “We’ll probably make some decisions by the end of the week whether to go on to Churchill.”
Though trainer Luis Carvajal admitted to being a little nervous when Javier Castellano eased up on Imperial Hint in the final sixteenth of Saturday’s Grade 1 Vosburgh, in hindsight he’s glad the Hall of Fame jockey did it.
Imperial Hint won Saturday’s Vosburgh by 1 1/4 lengths over Still Krz. But he had a 4 1/2-length advantage in midstretch, and Castellano just eased him for about a sixteenth of a mile – or he could have won by more. He also could have run faster than 1:08.27, which translated to a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.
“Javier’s a professional, he knows what he’s doing,” Carvajal said Sunday. “You just worry when you see him put on the brakes the last 50 yards; he went into a gallop. But we needed to leave gas in the tank. He’s saving the horse for the other race. Now, just looking forward to being at Churchill.”
Carvajal, who went to Tampa on Sunday morning to visit his wife and daughter for a few days, said he plans to ship Imperial Hint from Parx to Churchill Downs at least two weeks out from the Breeders’ Cup. Imperial Hint is 0 for 2 at Churchill, but Carvajal believes that is just due to circumstances.
In 2016, he ran 12th in the Pat Day Mile, a one-mile race. In the Grade 2 Churchill Downs this spring, he finished sixth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths gong seven furlongs over a sloppy track.
“Unfortunately, it was seven eighths and a wet track,” Carvajal said. “I think he ran a good race.”
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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