Channel Maker came out of his 4 ½-length score in the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on September Super Saturday in good order, according to his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott Sunday morning.
The 4-year-old English Channel gelding broke sharp and fended off a stretch-drive challenge from even-money favorite Robert Bruce, earning an all-fees-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf on November 3 at Churchill. Owned by Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable, Channel Maker earned a personal-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure following his gate-to-wire victory in the 1 ½-mile challenge on the Widener turf labeled soft.
“He looked good,” Mott said. “I was very tickled with the way he went on when they turned for home. He'd been under a little bit of pressure on the backside and on the turn, he dropped that one off and there was another challenge from a horse that had been sitting back. It looked like at one moment they were going to end up joining up, but he just opened up. It was gratifying to see.
“It's the type of effort you'd like to see all the time, but you don't always get. But he had been doing really well. If the way he breezed and looked coming into the race was any indication of how he was going to run, it was no surprise.”
Channel Maker earned his second graded stakes win in three starts, adding to a dead-heat victory in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 28 at Saratoga. With a runner-up effort to Glorious Empire in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on August 25 at the Spa sandwiched between those two wins, Mott said Channel Maker could be peaking at the right time.
“It certainly seems like he has [reached a new level],” Mott said. “He's been the victim of some bad trips and had been coming from way back.”
Mott said he plans to ship Channel Maker to Kentucky the same time as Yoshida, who is expected to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic on the same day as the Turf. Since winning the Grade 1 Woodward on September 1 at Saratoga Race Course, Yoshida has continued to work on the Oklahoma training tack at the Spa.
Another potential addition to Mott's Breeders' Cup contingent worked Sunday morning, as Casa Creed breezed four furlongs in 48.55 on the Belmont main track ahead of the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne for 2-year-olds at one mile on October 6. One of four graded stakes as part of the October Racing Festival from October 6-7, the Champagne is a “Win and You're In” qualifier to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 2.
“He worked this morning and it went very well, I couldn't be happier,” Mott said. “He's stepped up. He worked very well over the racetrack. I have no complaints. It looked like he handled it. He had a horse in front of him and he just cruised by him and was never asked to run.”
Owned by LRE Racing, Casa Creed broke his maiden at second asking on August 4 at Saratoga. Sunday marked the Jimmy Creed colt's first work at Belmont and fifth overall since that 1 ½-length win at seven furlongs. He will be making his first start at a mile in the Champagne.
Another potential Breeders' Cup addition could be Unionizer, who won his first race at second asking on August 11 at Saratoga before his victorious effort in the Sapling on September 1 at Monmouth Park. The 2-year-old son of Union Rags has been training this month at Belmont as he readies for the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on October 6 at Keeneland, another “Win and You're In” race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Like the Champagne, the Breeders' Futurity is also a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep race offering 10 points towards qualifying for the 2019 Kentucky Derby to the winner, with the top-four finishers receiving a points spread of 10-4-2-1.
“He already did [stretch out] when he won at Monmouth around a mile [with] two turns,” Mott said. “He looked good doing it if you go by the figures they pass out.”
Mott said Mucho is doing well but will not race again this year. Currently in Maryland, the 2-year-old son of Blame finished second in his debut on June 10 at Belmont and then broke his maiden with a 9 ¾-length win that earned him a 90 Beyer on August 4 at Saratoga. Stepping up to stakes company, he finished second, just three-quarters of a length behind Mind Control, in the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 3, Closing Day, at Saratoga.
“He's already at Fair Hill,” Mott said. “We won't pick him back up til November. He's done for the year, but we got three good races.”
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