Jockey Channing Hill, a regular on the New York circuit since 2005, will shift his tack to Southern California after riding the March 18 program at Aqueduct. The 21-year-old native of Grand Island, Neb., has hired Fairplex Park racing secretary and jockey agent Tom Knust to take his book.
“New York’s been great to me, and I can’t complain,” said Hill, who has ridden extensively on the East Coast since arriving as an apprentice in 2005. “But opportunity knocked, and I really didn’t want to turn it down; I wanted to see if I could actually make it somewhere else.”
The greatest score of Hill’s career, the 2008 Forego Stakes (gr. I) aboard the Bobby Frankel-trained First Defence, came in New York at Saratoga. His top mounts last season included Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) winner Sweet Vandetta and Barbara Fritchie Handicap (gr. II) winner Golden Dawn.
Hill arrived in New York after graduating high school (he began riding in Nebraska as a 16-year-old, accepting mounts at Prairie Meadows during his junior and senior years). His business on the circuit has been managed by agent Joe DiAngelo and has been steady since he lost the bug in 2006,but this winter he dropped few notches in what proved to be an unusually competitive riding colony.
“New York is a tough circuit, but I feel like I could come back and get the business I have now,” Hill said. “I felt like if there was ever a time to try Santa Anita, it’s now.”
The jockey will maintain definite ties to at least one New York-based runner – the unbeaten 3-year-old What a Pear, a Joseph Parker-trained filly whose last score was an impressive 10 3/4-length romp in the 1 1/16-mile Busher Stakes at Aqueduct Feb. 22. Tri-Bone Stables’ New York-bred, out of the Pine Bluff mare Perfect Pear, is expected to make her Polytrack debut at the same distance in the $400,000 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 4, and Hill will be in the saddle for his first race at the Lexington track.
“We’ll see what she’s made of now and see how she’s gonna progress,” Hill said. “She really made a step forward in her last race; she impressed me for sure. I’m really excited and pumped up about it, especially with a horse that has a shot to establish herself as a top Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender.”
Hill will travel to California after taking a few days off and will start riding at Santa Anita Park, but expects to build most of his business during the upcoming Hollywood Park meet which begins April 22. His new agent, 61-year-old Knust, once handled the books of Patrick Valenzuela and Corey Nakatani. He also managed business for Jose Valdiva Jr. when that jockey won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in 2004.