Odds-on favourite Channel Maker edged out Final Copy in a photo finish and survived an inquiry to win the 127th running of the $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the third leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, on Sunday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
The Triple Crown’s 1-1/2 mile turf test followed the Queen's Plate (1-1/4 miles) won by filly Holy Helena on July 2 at Woodbine and the Prince of Wales Stakes (1-3/16 miles) on July 25 at Fort Erie won by Cool Catomine.
Rafael Hernandez rode Channel Maker to the 2:29.70 victory for trainer Bill Mott and owners Joey Gee Thoroughbreds, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber.
Channel Maker raced in between horses near the backfield and emerged down the stretch to battle with Final Copy, one of three contenders trained by nine-time Breeders’ Stakes winner Roger Attfield with Patrick Husbands aboard. In the end, Channel Maker prevailed by a nose, but a few anxious moments followed as the stewards reviewed and subsequently disallowed three claims of foul alleging interference – two against the winner and one against the runner-up.
“Down the lane, he was just laying over a little bit when he switched to the lead and didn’t bother anybody as the inquiry showed,” said Hernandez. “I think he’s a good horse, he’s been showing up every time he’s been running and we won so that’s good. The plan was good and we made the plans go through.”
In his turf debut, supplemental entry Cool Catomine (Luis Contreras) left from the outside post 10 before the Attfield-trained Major Eclipse (Jesse Campbell) took command into the first turn and led the field of Canadian-bred three-year-olds through one and a quarter miles (:26.35, :51.46, 1:16.41, 1:40.81, 2:05.41). Cool Catomine tracked in second-place with Final Copy third and those two ranged up down the stretch while Channel Maker moved into contention and the stretch duel ensued with Final Copy.
“The other horse for Attfield, he started coming back,” said Hernandez, who rode Final Copy for his last three wins heading into the Breeders’ Stakes. “I had a head in front of him and then we’d get head-to-head and he tried to come back right there in the end, but my horse kept going.”
Hernandez celebrated his second straight victory in the Breeders’ Stakes after winning the 2016 edition with Camp Creek for trainer Rachel Halden, who saddled Channel Maker today on behalf of Mott.
Channel Maker, who has earned top three finishes in a pair graded stakes and his only other win on the Woodbine turf in last year’s Vandal Stakes (6-1/2 furlongs), entered the Breeders’ Stakes following a fourth-place finish in the Queen’s Plate.
“He kind of made a move like he was going to go win the race and then he just stopped a little bit and came back again,” said Hernandez of his trip in the first Triple Crown leg. “That’s why Joey said we’re going to put him on the grass, he’s always been better on the grass and we waited for this race and he prepared for this race and he showed up today. It’s great.”
Bred in Ontario by Tall Oaks Farm, the English Channel-In Return gelding earned his second career win from 10 starts and boosted his bankroll over $420,000.
Settling for second-place, Husbands praised Final Copy’s game effort.
“He ran game. He really fought back hard,” he said. “The last jump and a half, I thought he was going to catch him.”
At odds of 12-1, King and His Court, 2016 Sovereign Award Champion Two-Year-Old Colt, finished third with Gary Boulanger aboard for Woodbine’s leading trainer Mark Casse, who also ran seventh-place finisher Conquest Lemonraid (Joe Bravo) in the race.
“He trained really good going into this and his last race [3rd in the Toronto Cup] he needed pretty badly,” said Boulanger of King and His Court. “He didn’t do a whole lot going into that race and still ran a good third. Today, he really tried hard. The last 100 yards he got a little flat on me, but it was a big effort.”
Seeking Albert (David Moran), another supplement, finished fourth while Woodbridge (Alan Garcia), Lookin At Bravo (Emma-Jayne Wilson), Conquest Lemonraid, Major Eclipse, Glencairn (Jerome Lermyte) and Cool Catomine completed the order of finish.
Channel Maker paid $5.50, $3.40 and $2.70. He combined with Final Copy ($5.20, $3.60) for a 2-9 exactor worth $24.60. A 2-9-3 triactor (King and His Court, $6.10) paid $93.55 and a $1 superfecta of 2-9-3-8 (Seeking Albert) returned $553.85.