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Channel Maker Sets Elkhorn Stakes Record in 2022 Debut

There was no dust to shake off Channel Maker ‘s heels in the $310,538 Elkhorn Stakes (G2T) April 23 at Keeneland.

Making his season debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the 8-year-old English Channel gelding blitzed a stakes-record time of 2:27.10 in the 1 1/2-mile affair to fell the 1999 mark of African Dancer (2:27 4/5), who won the race in consecutive years (1998-99) and was also trained by Mott.

“No kidding; isn’t that amazing?” Mott remarked when informed of the connection. “I told my assistant Kenny (McCarthy) that the old guy’s still got a little fire in the furnace.”

Luis Saez had the return call aboard Channel Maker. The two first partnered for the chestnut’s most recent start, a fifth in the Nov. 6 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) at Del Mar. Channel Maker spent the winter at Mott’s Payson Park base before moving to Churchill Downs in advance of this start.

“We gave him some time and brought him back and it took him a while to get loosened up after the layup,” Mott said. “When you reach a certain age, it probably is harder to get back in shape. After about 45 days, he started to loosen up and grab the bridle and he was training good. And once we started breezing him, he jumped right back into it.”

Back into it indeed—Channel Maker was forwardly placed throughout and pressed the pace set by Two Emmys , who showed the way through early fractions of :25.13, :49.53, and 1:14.05.

“He used to run on the lead, but we decided last night to take him a little from behind, so the key today was to break and let the 3 horse (Two Emmys) go because we knew that was the speed in the race,” Saez said. “So I sat right there at his shoulder, and when we came to the top of the stretch it was all about (Channel Maker).”

First time by in the Elkhorn as Two Emmys leads the way.  Channel Maker #5 with Luis Saez goes on to win the Elkhorn (G2T) at Keeneland on April 23, 2022.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Two Emmys leads the way early in the Elkhorn, tracked by Channel Maker

While Tiberius Mercurius briefly stuck a head in front through a 1:37.91 mile and clicked the timer in 2:02.64 for 1 1/4 miles, he tired down the lane as Channel Maker ranged up to take control.

“You have to let him decide when he’s going to make his move,” Saez said.

His veteran mount certainly made the right decision Saturday, drawing clear late despite drifting out. He held sway over the late inside rally of Another Mystery by 1 1/4 lengths, with Bemma’s Boy completing the trifecta another half-length back. The order of finish was completed by Bama Breeze , Sole Volante , Cullum Road , Two Emmys, and Tiberius Mercurius.

Channel Maker was sent off at 7-2 odds and returned $9 on a $2 win ticket. Racing for Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, he improved his record to 8-6-5 from 44 starts, with earnings of $3,595,576. The Elkhorn was his fifth graded stakes score, joining the 2020 and 2018 editions of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1T), the 2020 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1T), the 2019 Man o’ War Stakes (G1T), and the 2018 Bowling Green Stakes (G2T).

Channel Maker was bred in Ontario by Ivan Dalos’ Tall Oaks Farm out of the Horse Chestnut mare In Return , a speedy black-type winner who set two course records at Monmouth Park in 2006 and tied one there in 2007. Her last reported foal was the grade 1-placed black-type winner Court Return , born in 2016.

A five-time veteran of the Breeders’ Cup, Channel Maker put in his best effort in the 2020 edition at Keeneland where he finished third, a length behind Tarnawa and Magical , running “really, really well,” Mott said. That year he was honored as champion turf male in North America.

The Breeders’ Cup returns to Lexington this fall and could be on the agenda for the old-timer.

But even if he doesn’t make it back to the World Championships for a sixth time, Channel Maker doesn’t owe his connections a thing.

“He’s a real warrior, you know what I mean? You’ve got to love him,” Mott said. “He’s been a lot of fun.”

Courtesy of The Bloodhorse