SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Owner Randy Hill of R.A. Hill Stable said he is hopeful that reigning Champion Turf Male Channel Maker can flaunt his excellence once more in Saturday’s 11-furlong Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Channel Maker, owned by Hill in partnership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable, captured the 2018 Bowling Green when dead-heating with Glorious Empire before finishing a respective fourth and third in the previous two runnings.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the Ontario-bred son of 2007 Champion Turf Male English Channel captured last year’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at the Spa ahead of a Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic score at Belmont Park.
Channel Maker capped off his Eclipse Award-winning season with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland, where he replicated his career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure earned in his previous two races.
The 7-year-old chestnut arrives at the Bowling Green off a pair of international endeavors when a close second in the Group 1 Neom Turf Cup on February 20 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia and a distant eighth in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on March 27 at Meydan Racecourse.
In this year’s Bowling Green, Channel Maker will square off against two previous winners of the 1 3/8-mile turf test in Channel Cat  and Cross Border . Like Channel Maker, both horses also are by 2007 Turf Champion English Channel.
“He’s the high weight at 124 and he’s coming in off the layoff, so those are two things you don’t know about,” Hill said. “People talk about Cross Border being horse for course and he likes this course, but so does Channel Maker. If he runs his race, he should win. Obviously, Channel Cat could show some speed, and he won the Bowling Green two years ago from the front end.”
Channel Maker, who has earned over $3.2 million through an impressive 39-7-6-5 record, has won at least one Grade 1 turf event on the NYRA circuit since 2018, when he captured his first score in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park under Jose Ortiz.
In April of the following year, he defeated a talented field in the Man o’ War which included Group 1-winner Magic Wand as well as Grade 1-winners Arklow and Zulu Alpha.
“I like our chances. I think we’re the class of the race,” Hill said. “He’s ran three 108 Beyers in a row and couple of low numbers on the Ragozin sheets. He ran great in Saudi Arabia. We were almost second in the Breeders’ Cup losing to two of the best horses in the world. We have trust in Billy, he’s a Hall of Fame trainer.”
Inclement weather stormed through the Saratoga Springs area on Thursday, resulting in some likely give in the ground for Saturday’s Bowling Green, which Hill said could benefit Channel Maker who captured last year’s Sword Dancer at Saratoga over an inner turf rated soft.
“He loves soft going, it moves him up. To me, the soft going compensates for the weight and the layoff,” Hill said. “I think we caught a break with the rain. He likes some cut in the ground.”
A thoroughbred owner for two decades, Hill said he was delighted to be able to say he owns a champion.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s what you get into this game for,” Hill said. “I’ve been in the game for a long time, and this is what it’s all about.”
Jockey Manny Franco piloted Channel Maker in his two Grade 1 scores last year and will return to the irons for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup from post 5.
“Manny has been successful with this horse,” Hill noted. “His career changed when we got him on the front end. It’s a steppingstone for the [Grade 1, $1.25 million Resorts World Casino] Sword Dancer [on August 28] and the Joe Hirsch, I like the spot we’re in.”
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Channel Maker winning the 2019 Bowling Green (NYRA/Chelsea Durand)