Tactic change pays off for Channel Maker in Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
Courtesy of David Grening of DRF.com
ELMONT, N.Y. – Channel Maker has come a long way since he finished sixth at odds of 58-1 in the 2017 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, where at one point he was 14 lengths off the early pace.
Saturday, Channel Maker was on the lead from the outset under Jose Ortiz, turned aside a challenge from Teodoro on the turn, then drew clear to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic by 4 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park.
Robert Bruce, the even-money favorite, flattened out in the stretch and had to settle for second, 5 1/2 lengths clear of Sadler’s Joy. Highland Sky, Teodoro, Carrick, and Spring Quality completed the order of finish.
The victory, the first in a Grade 1 for Channel Maker, earned him a fees-paid berth into the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
“A horse couldn’t be doing any better than what he’s been doing,” trainer Bill Mott said. “I don’t know if he can stay this good for another five weeks.”
Channel Maker has been quite good for the last nine weeks. At Saratoga, he dead-heated for win the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap with Glorious Empire. In the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, he finished second to Glorious Empire.
His success has come since employing a different running style than in the past. He is now into the races earlier and he still finishes.
Saturday, with the scratch of Hi Happy, Channel Maker became the primary speed in the race. Under Ortiz – subbing for Joel Rosario, who was in California on Saturday – Channel Maker raced uncontested through an opening quarter in 25.05 seconds. But then Ryan Moore opted to put a slow-starting Teodoro alongside him.
The pair were heads apart through a mile in 1:41.07 over a Widener turf course labeled soft. Teodoro faded, and Channel Maker opened up.
Robert Bruce tried to make a run at Channel Maker in the stretch, but he couldn’t sustain it while Channel Maker kept on plugging away.
Channel Maker, a 4-year-old gelding by English Channel – himself a two-time winner of the Hirsch – covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.73. He returned $12 as the 5-1 third choice. He is owned by Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel.
“He wants to be on the lead,” Ortiz said. “He doesn’t want a big hold taken of him. I think they found the right thing. They told me today to try to be on the lead and slow it down, and that’s what I did.”
Said Mott: “He’s never gotten away cleanly enough to be up on the lead, but the last couple of times he’s been breaking better.”
Mott said that Channel Maker would likely ship back to Saratoga for a little while, but then head to Churchill Downs a few weeks before the Breeders’ Cup.
Robert Bruce, the Arlington Million winner, was about five lengths off the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr. and just couldn’t make up the necessary ground.
Chad Brown, the trainer of Robert Bruce, seemed frustrated at the trip his horse got.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “There was no pace in the race and my horse broke so well and then he ended up behind. I’m not sure why.”
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