by New York Racing Association Press Release
September 29, 2018
ELMONT, N.Y. - Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable's Channel Maker surged to the front and outkicked a charging even-money favorite Robert Bruce in the stretch to post a 4 ½-length gate-to-wire victory in the 42nd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic as part of September Super Saturday at Belmont Park.
Channel Maker notched his second graded stakes win in three starts, adding to his dead heat victory in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 28 at Saratoga, and in the process earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf on November 3 at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Jose Ortiz sent Channel Maker to the front on the Widener turf course labeled soft, dueling with the Irish-bred Teodoro with the opening quarter-mile in 25.05 seconds and the half in 50.52 as the duo gained separation on the rest of the seven-horse field on the backstretch.
Nearing the far turn, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. kept Robert Bruce to the inside on a ground-saving trip, overtaking Teodoro from the outside before making a strong bid at the top of the stretch. But Ortiz switched leads on Channel Maker, with the 4-year-old English Channel gelding responding by clearing away to the wire, completing 1 ½ miles in a final time of 2:30.73.
Channel Maker, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, ran second in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer last out on August 25 at the Spa at the Turf Classic distance and continued to train well up into Saturday, his conditioner said.
"A horse couldn't be doing better than he's been doing. 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," said Mott, who notched his third Joe Hirsch Turf Classic win and first since Shakespeare in 2005. "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.
"He's got a little different running style [than last year]," he added. "Even the last two or three times, he's always broke and been back; he's never gotten away cleanly enough to be up on the lead. But, the last couple times, he's been breaking better."
Off at 5-1, Channel Maker paid $12 on a $2 win bet. His first career Belmont win helped him earn millionaire status, with his career earnings improving to $1,007,500.
"He was relaxed the whole way around. He had been running well the last three races," said Ortiz, who won the Turf Classic for the second time in three years after piloting Ectot in 2016. "I rode him here [in the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 9], and he was in a bunch of trouble and only got beat one length.
"At the three-eighths 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, coming off a win in the Grade 1 Arlington Million last out on August 11 at Arlington Park, finished 5 ½ lengths clear of Sadler's Joy for second. The 4-year-old Chilean-bred has finished first or second in three of his four starts since arriving from his native country, including a win in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 5 at Belmont.
"I'm disappointed," trainer Chad Brown 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. The winner ran really good, but the pace was so slow and after breaking so good, I don't understand why he was so far back."
Highland Sky, Teodoro, Carrick, and Spring Quality completed the order of finish. Hi Happy was scratched.