English Channel cruises to Joe Hirsch Turf Classic win.

English Channel cruises to Joe Hirsch Turf Classic win.

Skip Dickstein

English Channel Wins Hirsch Classic in Spectacular Fashion

English Channel won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) on Sept. 30 at Belmont Park.

With multiple Grade I victories to his credit, English Channel did not have anything to prove in the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) (VIDEO). The supremely talented 5-year-old was already regarded as one of the best turf horses in the nation.

But the manner in which English Channel scored in the Sept. 30 Turf Classic at Belmont Park just added to his already brilliant career. A son of Smart Strike-Belva, English Channel was still a length back at the top of the stretch and bottled up on the inside. The 1 1/2-mile event was quickly getting away, especially with hard-charging Stream of Gold (IRE) flying on the outside.

But under a desperate ride from John Velazquez, English Channel found a way past Mission Approved at the rail, using the tiniest of openings to shoot through. Once he found daylight at the eighth pole English Channel soared through, eventually passing Mission Approved to win by 2 1/4 lengths going away. It was a heart-pounding victory for a horse who has now won 12 of 22 career starts and earned more than $3.7 for owner James Scatuorchio.

It was also the second time English Channel won the Turf Classic, becoming only the third horse to win the prestigious event multiple times. On Oct. 27 he will try to win the elusive $3-million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf Classic (gr. IT) for the first time in three tries. The Turf Classic win automatically qualified him for that race.

“You are always anxious when you are a big favorite and you are supposed to win,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “He was very relaxed and I knew Johnny had horse. He just needed a spot to go. Fortunately, things opened up for him enough on the rail. I thought that once he got clear, he is just such a good horse that I knew he had the ability to quicken.

“I never doubted this horse’s ability. He’s been a terrific horse for us. He’s a head shy of winning three Turf Classics. This turned out to be a perfect prep. He relaxed really well and only ran for an eighth of a mile.”

Going off as the 2-5 favorite, English Channel paid $2.80 to win. The final time was 2:25.73. Stream of Gold was second, filling out a $12.80 exacta (1-6). Interpatation was three more lengths back in third.

Mission Approved, who set the pace through 1 1/4 miles and set fractions of 1:13.73 and 1:38.23 and 2:01.93, tired to finish fifth. English Channel rated well throughout much of the race, staying toward the inside of the pacesetter and Kiss the Kid.

“He’s a little difficult to ride, because he drifts when you pull him,” said Velazquez, who won his fourth Turf Classic. “When I got in there, I yelled at Coa (jockey Eibar Coa aboard Mission Approved) so he wouldn’t put me over the fence. He was fine one he got through. He’s just a nice horse.”

Bred in Kentucky by Keene Ridge Farm, English Channel had one graded stakes win this year, a victory in the July 7 United Nations (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. He was three lengths back in his most recent start, a second place finish in the Aug. 11 Sword Dancer (gr. I) at Saratoga.

(Chart, Equibase)