Channel Maker stretches, British Royalty shortens for $150K Grand Couturier

July 3, 2022

ELMONT, N.Y. – Canadian Classic winners Channel Maker and British Royalty will square off in Friday’s $150,000 Grand Couturier, a 12-furlong Widener turf test for older horses at Belmont Park.

Both Channel Maker and British Royalty are geldings by English Channel, who found success in the Breeders’ Stakes, the 12-furlong final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown contested over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor Turf Course.

Trained and co-owned by Barb Minshall with Bruce Lunsford, the 4-year-old British Royalty overcame a troubled start to finish a game second last out to the victorious Loft in the two-mile Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup on June 10.

British Royalty, with returning rider Joel Rosario up, hit the gate leaving the stalls and broke outward into rivals before settling into a ground-saving position. He advanced into contention with three furlongs remaining, angling five-wide for the stretch run and dug in gamely to complete the exacta by a nose over Strong Tide.

“At two miles, I won’t make any excuses for the gate [issue]. He ran really well. Overall, I was pretty happy with his race,” Minshall said. “At two miles, you never know, but I was pretty convinced he would handle the trip. He’s just a true stayer. A mile and a half is right up his alley.”

British Royalty, bred in Ontario by Richard Lister, posted a debut win in October 2020 over Tapeta at Woodbine Racetrack when owned outright by Lunsford in the care of Minshall. He finished off-the-board in his next four starts, prompting the connections to drop him into a claiming event in July 2021 at Woodbine where he finished second while being haltered for $25,000 by conditioner John Charalambous.

The stamina-tested bay was entered back two weeks later for a $40,000 tag and immediately re-acquired, finishing a troubled fourth. British Royalty finished eighth in a 10-furlong turf allowance in his next start as a prep for the Breeders’.

British Royalty, with blinkers on for the first time, tracked from fifth position in the Breeders’ before launching his bid, splitting rivals and angling three-wide for the lengthy stretch run. He took command at the stretch call and drew off to a four-length win over the yielding going. 

The $30,000 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February Mixed Sale purchase wintered at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Florida, and made his seasonal debut with a close second in a 12-furlong allowance event over good Keeneland turf ahead of his Gold Cup effort.

Minshall said she will leave race tactics in the capable hands of Rosario, who will pilot British Royalty from post 1 with a 118-pound weight assignment.

“It obviously depends on the pace, but I think he likes to settle mid-pack, not far off the frontrunners,” Minshall said. “He’s very rideable and the rider can put him where he wants. He’s got a good cruising speed.”

Minshall said she’d love to see the two Canadian-breds run one-two should her horse be able to reel in the often prominent Channel Maker.

“Hopefully, with our horse on top,” said Minshall, with a laugh. “Maybe we can sit behind him. He’s [Channel Maker] a horse that likes the front end.”

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Channel Maker, the 2020 Champion Turf Male, boasts a record of 45-8-6-5 with purse earnings in excess of $3.5 million. 

The durable chestnut was a nose winner of the 2017 Breeders’ but rose to prominence stateside in 2020 with Grade 1 scores in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont. He completed his championship campaign with a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.

Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Channel Maker, bred in Ontario by the Tall Oaks Farm of Ivan Dalos, banked $425,000 last season despite being winless in six starts after starting his campaign with a runner-up effort in the Neom Turf Cup in Saudi Arabia. 

He started his current campaign on a winning note with a prominent 1 1/4-length score in the Grade 2 Elkhorn in April at Keeneland and enters from a slow-starting off-the-board effort in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day June 11.

Luis Saez will pilot Channel Maker, assigned a co-field high 124 pounds, from post 3.

Amerman Racing’s Admission Office [post 2, John Velazquez, 124 pounds], a 7-year-old son of Point of Entry, made his first two starts at Belmont, including a first-out maiden score in May 2018 when in the care of trainer Chad Brown.

He was transferred to trainer Brian Lynch in 2019 and won at first asking that April at Keeneland before placing in four graded events. Admission Office made the grade with a narrow head score over Arklow in the 2020 Grade 3 Louisville travelling 12-furlongs over firm going at Churchill Downs.

Admission Office made just three starts last year led by a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay. He returned off a 15-month layoff last out to win the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Arlington on June 4 over firm turf at Churchill.

“I was very happy to see him come like that. That was his first start as a gelding and he’d been training very well,” Lynch said. “A mile and a half will be a test for him, but he has won at that distance before. He’s sound and he’s doing really well right now.”

Christophe Clement, who won this event last year with Gufo, will send out Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael Caruso’s multiple graded-stakes placed Soldier Rising.

The 4-year-old Frankel bay closed from deep to finish a close second to State of Rest in the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby last summer while making his stateside debut for Clement. He followed with a runner-up effort in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational in October at Belmont, finishing 2 1/2-lengths in arrears of Yibir, who went on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar and secure Champion Turf Male honors.

Soldier Rising completed his sophomore season with a closing third in the 11-furlong Grade 2 Red Smith in November at the Big A and returned to action in May at Belmont with a third-place finish in a 10-furlong optional-claimer. 

He enters from a more prominent approach in an 11-furlong optional-claimer, settling in third under returning rider Jose Ortiz before edging clear to a 1 1/2-length score over yielding Belmont turf.

“He’s doing well. He’s a nice horse and he ran at a high level last year,” Clement said. “He won last time out and we’re bringing him back to the stakes level. It’s exciting. We’ll see what happens.”

Clement said he will let Ortiz dictate tactics.

“It’s all up to the jock. I just train the horse to be fit and feeling good,” Clement said.

Soldier Rising, bred in Great Britain by Dayton Investments, will emerge from post 4 carrying 118 pounds.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle W.S. Farish homebred Highest Honors. The 6-year-old son of Tapit closed to finish third last out in the 12-furlong Grade 3 Louisville contested over good going on May 21 at Churchill Downs.

The grey launched his career with nine starts over the main track, including a win in the 2019 Curlin at Saratoga. He made a victorious grass debut in February in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer at Gulfstream ahead of a closing fourth in a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland turf allowance in April.

Flavien Prat will pilot the 118 pound-rated Highest Honors from the outermost post 5.

The Grand Couturier is slated as Race 4 on Friday’s nine-race card. 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.

NYRA Press Office
Photo: Channel Maker winning the Joe Hirsch at Belmont Sept. 29, 2020. (Chelsea Durand)

@jonathanstettin Another great look back by Jonathan at the king of the claimers Oscar Barrera.

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