James Scatourchio's 4-year-old English Channel, making his first start since finishing fifth in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), drove to a three-quarters of a length victory in the $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap Saturday at Gulfsteam Park.
Ridden by John Velazquez, the millionaire son of Smart Strike
stalked the pace set by Gulch Approval from the start of the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf. English Channel, the 9-5 favorite, took command in the stretch and held Live Oak Plantation's fast-closing Miesque's Approval safe in 1:39:13 on firm ground. It was a half-length back to second choice Silver Tree.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, English Channel was making his first start since finishing 8 1/2 lengths behind the European-trained sweep of the first four places in the BC Turf at Belmont Park Oct. 29.
Pletcher said the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve (gr. IT) on May 6 at Churchill Downs would be next for English Channel, who improved to 6-2-0 in 10 lifetime starts, with earnings of $1,231,091.
"His best distance is probably a mile-and–an-eighth to a mile-and-a-quarter," Pletcher said. "It's good to see that we can stretch him out from here."
English Channel, who won the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) last year and turned in strong back-to-back second-place efforts in Arlington Park's Secretariat (gr. IT) and Belmont's Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT), tracked a routine pace (:23 4/5, :48 2/5 and 1:10 4/5) before assuming the lead with a furlong to go.
"All I had to do was get position and bide my time," said Velazquez. "When he was ready to run, I asked him and he responded. I was just a passenger here."
The winner paid $5.60, $4.40, and $2.60. Miesque's Approval returned $9.40 and $4. Silver Tree was $2.20 to show.