A dawdling pace in Saturday's $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup couldn't stop prohibitive favorite English Channel, whose devastating late kick produced an easy 3 1/2-length at Colonial Downs.
The son of Smart Strike
earned $300,000 for his fourth win in five starts, completing the 1 3/16-mile turf test for 3-year-olds in 1:56 1/5 at odds of 2-5. John Velazquez rode the winner for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner James T. Scatuorchio.
Exceptional Ride, ridden by Brice Blanc, finished second by three-quarters of a length, surviving a claim of foul from Tom Turner, the rider of third-place finisher Interpatation.
The Colonial Turf Cup is the first leg of a four-race series that awards a total of $5 million in bonuses and purses if English Channel can sweep. Next up is the Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT) July 16 at Colonial. The others are the Aug. 13 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park and the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.
"It's the first day of a new horse racing tradition," said Colonial's chief executive officer Jeff Jacobs. "There's nothing that I would like more than to be standing in the winner circle on Breeders' Cup day with a $3 million check in my pocket."
Scatuorchio would be happy to take it.
"That's a long, long way off," he said. "He's got a lot to do before we get to that point."
English Channel was coming off a four-length win in the Woodlawn at Pimlico May 21, his stakes debut. He increased his earnings to $422,691.
"I think it great that its been put up," Scatuorchio said, referring to the bonus. "I don't believe we do enough of it for grass breeding in this country. On grass I think he'll be at head of the class. There's two or three very nice horses. He's not there yet. He's still learning how to run."
Mad Adam inherited an easy lead in the paceless race, taking the six-horse field along in :25, :51 and 1:14 2/5 before backing out of it. English Channel, far back in three of his previous four races, tracked closely in third, responding to Velazquez's urging near the quarter pole and taking command while three wide in upper stretch. He pulled away inside the eighth pole under encouragement.
"As soon I had to let him know that he's got to run, I tapped him on the shoulder and I squeezed him a little bit down on the belly, he knew," said Velazquez. "He went on and did his business. I like that when you go at a slow pace and he finishes like that. It's pretty impressive.
Exceptional Ride finished gamely to earn the place over the stalking Interpatation, who steadied briefly on the runner-up's heels in the stretch drive.
Classic Campaign, the second choice in the field, gained a short lead after prompting the pacesetter throughout, but could not hold off the late chargers, finishing fourth. Criminal Mind, who ranged into contention nearing the stretch, gave way to finish fifth. Mad Adam was last.
English Channel paid $2.80, $2.80, and $2.10. Exceptional Ride returned $5.20 and $3.20. Interpatation was $3.60 to show.
El Viaje, Crown Point, Spring House, Touched by Madness, and Wallstreet Scandal all scratched.
)Nick Hahn contributed to this article.