ELMONT, N.Y. – At the ripe age of 8-years-old, the veteran iron horse Channel Maker continued his winning ways by capturing Friday’s $150,000 Grand Couturier at 12 furlongs for older horses over Belmont Park’s Widener turf course.
Channel Maker, the 2020 Champion Turf Male, has captured some of the NYRA circuit’s premier Grade 1 turf events for older horses including the Man o’ War , Sword Dancer  and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic [2018, 2020].
The Grand Couturier score marked the ninth career stakes victory for Channel Maker, who has won at least one stakes race in six of his seven years of racing, dating back to the 2016 Vandal at Woodbine during his juvenile season.
Winless in six starts last year, the son of fellow turf champion English Channel commenced his 8-year-old season on a winning note in the Grade 2 Elkhorn on April 23 at Keeneland for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He entered from his fifth appearance in the Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Manhattan on June 11 at Belmont, finishing ninth after missing the break.
Channel Maker flaunted his usual head-high frontrunning tactics when breaking from post 3 with Highest Honors applying pressure to his outside heading into the first turn through an opening quarter-mile in 25.02 seconds over the firm going. Positions remained unchanged down the backstretch with four lengths covering the five-horse field as Channel Maker marked the half in 50.47 and three quarters in 1:16.31.
As the field approached the far turn, Luis Saez nudged Channel Maker slightly as Highest Honors began to inch his way closer to even terms with Solider Rising under a drive and looming from a close fourth. Highest Honors and Channel Maker were nip-and-tuck just past the quarter pole with the latter maintaining a slight advantage.
Solider Rising gave Channel Maker a bigger problem from the three-path, briefly capturing command at the stretch call. But Channel Maker showed the heart of a true champion, turning back a game Soldier Rising to win by a neck in a final time of 2:27.54. Soldier Rising finished another length ahead of Highest Honors, followed by British Royalty and Admission Office.
Saez, also aboard for the Elkhorn, is the sixth jockey to have won aboard Channel Maker, who returned $4.50 as the favorite.
“He always tries – that’s him. He’s always waiting on other horses, and today he came to the top of the stretch and was fighting,” Saez said. “He finally got the jump in the last bit. He fights and he doesn’t win that impressively, but he can run in a little stake or a big stake the same. He just wants to be there first and he doesn’t want to give in to anyone.”
Now boasting a record of 46-9-6-5 and earnings in excess of $3.6 million, Channel Maker continues to leave his connections in awe. Dean Reeves, who co-owns Channel Maker with R.A. Hill Stable, Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable, credited Mott for keeping the horse in good form.
“To keep an 8-year-old at this level – a horse that’s come back from overseas – and has won so many Grade 1s is impressive. He’s got the horse to work with, who has tremendous heart,” Reeves said. “He wants to be on the lead and you’ve got to come beat him. He showed today his tenacity and heart – if they were all like that we’d be having blanket finishes. He’s a fan favorite and it’s great that he’s stayed around for this long, so the fans really get to where they know Channel Maker.”
Reeves noted the whirlwind ride Channel Maker has taken his connections on, including four Grade 1 wins, and two international engagements in the Middle East led by a runner-up effort in the 2021 Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia.
“He runs in Grade 1s, and he’s been all over the world and he just gets it done. He brings his best game every time,” Reeves said. “Today, he showed just the kind of horse he is because I thought he was beat. Soldier Rising, I thought, had it. But he just saw him out of the corner of his eye and said, ‘No. I’m going to get there.’ He shows up every time.”
Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, Channel Maker is out of the black type producing Horse Chestnut mare In Return. Her other progeny are multiple graded stakes-placed Court Return, four-time winner Proud Vixen and Grade 1-winner Johnny Bear, who is a full-brother to Channel Maker.
Live racing resumes Saturday at Belmont Park with an 11-race program for the Stars and Stripes Racing Festival, which is headlined by the first legs of the Caesars Turf Triple Series – the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational for 3-year-olds going 10 furlongs in Race 9 and the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks in Race 7. The stacked card also includes Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban, a 10-furlong handicap for older horses in Race 4 and the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies in Race 8. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Park, and the best way to bet every race of the spring/summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Ryan Martin/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Channel Maker (NYRA/Coglianese)