English Channel Starts Preakness Undercard Stakes Program

The stakes program got off to a good start Saturday at Pimlico with odds-on choice English Channel blazing home well clear in the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez.

The same duo won the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) the previous day with Spun Sugar.

The Woodlawn Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf is the first of eight consecutive stakes on the card that will culminate with the Preakness (gr. I), which is scheduled for a 6:09 p.m (EDT) start.

English Channel, by Smart Strike, had won two of his three previous starts. The 3-year-old colt captured his first level allowance condition at Keeneland in April, just as Spun Sugar had done before she tried stakes company. English Channel's first stakes victory, worth $60,000, nearly doubled his earnings to $122,691.

Owned by James Scatourchio, English Channel is out of the Theatrical mare Belva. Keene Ridge Farm bred the winner in Kentucky and sold him as a yearling at Keeneland for $50,000.

English Channel covered the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.55 on a good course after sitting behind the leaders until the field straightened away for home. He blew by down the lane to win by four lengths. After early pacesetter T. D. Vance faded, United made the lead for Edgar Prado with an eighth of a mile to run and held on for second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Holy Ground and Cornelio Velasquez, who rallied mildy came on to get third.

"I guess the trip was pretty good since we won, but we didn't break well," Velazquez said. "Luckily I knew the horse and I knew that all I had to do was get good position around the quarter-pole and we would be home easy from there."

The winner, heavily favored, paid $3, $2.40, and $2.20, while United returned $5.40 and $4. Holy Ground paid $3.40 to show.

(Chart, Equibase)