ENGLISH CHANNEL is now tied for second by stakes winners among second-crop sires in North America after another huge weekend of sterling black-type performances. For the second Saturday in a row, a son of ENGLISH CHANNEL announced himself on the sophomore scene with an gutsy first stakes win. Skyring, a homebred runner for Bluegrass Hall LLC and trainer D. Wayne Lukas, was trying the turf for the first time on the Preakness Stakes undercard when he led every step in the $100,000 James W. Murphy S. at Pimlico. He defeated another son of ENGLISH CHANNEL, favored Easy Crossing, while ROCK HARD TEN’s Mr. Handsome completed the Lane’s End trifecta. Their performances came a day after ENGLISH CHANNEL’s filly Seanchai ran second in the $100,000 Hilltop S. at Pimlico.
“This horse I liked the best of all mine all day long,” said Skyring’s Hall of Fame trainer, who also sent out ENGLISH CHANNEL’s Optimizer in the Preakness. “I felt real good about him. I even flirted with the idea of switching the two horses. [But] I was anxious to get [Skyring] on the grass. It worked out really well. I knew at the top of the stretch when they swarmed him, I said to myself, ‘He isn’t done yet.’ This horse really tries. I wouldn’t have any hesitation putting him back on the dirt, either. I think he’s very versatile.”
Lukas, who praised ENGLISH CHANNEL’s progeny as being “hickory tough and very competitive,” added of Skyring’s personality, “In the morning, I had to quit working him with other horses for the simple reason that there’s no such thing as an easy work with him. He thinks we’re getting paid at 6 a.m.”
That love-to-race attitude is a recurring theme among ENGLISH CHANNEL’s youngsters, and was evident a week prior in the $156,300 Marine S. at Woodbine, won by the ENGLISH CHANNEL colt Strait of Dover. “He’s a really nice horse,” said winning jockey Justin Stein. “He’s got a ton of confidence. He loves being out here, and he loves his job. He wants to destroy everything in sight.”
Watching as Strait of Dover lengthened away to a 6 1/2-length victory, Woodbine’s Dan Loiselle declared him “magnificent in the Marine!” And it would be hard to argue with the long-time track announcer. Strait of Dover has now crossed the line first in four consecutive races (he was DQ’d from the win in the first), and according to The Blood-Horse, is an early favorite for the historic $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 24. Owned and bred by Wally Leong’s Canyon Farms in British Columbia, Strait of Dover was making his stakes and route debut.
ENGLISH CHANNEL has picked up where he left off after concluding last year as Kentucky’s seventh-ranked active freshman sire and ranked co-fourth in the nation with four stakes horses. The son of SMART STRIKE is currently ranked # 4 in the nation on the second-crop sire list and, somewhat improbably for such a young sire, is ranked #8 on the nation’s leading turf sires list, ahead of such veterans as Kitten’s Joy, War Front, Arch, More Than Ready, Speightstown, etc. More importantly to breeders, he is still available for your late-foaling mares!
ENGLISH CHANNEL registered his latest impressive maiden special weight winner when his son Sark gamely prevailed in a one-mile test on the main track at Churchill Downs. Sark is another Bluegrass Hall homebred trained by Lukas, who of course also campaign one of ENGLISH CHANNEL’s best 3-year-olds, the Triple Crown hopeful Optimizer. After a tough trip in the G2 Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds, Optimizer rebounded in a big way in the G2 Rebel S. on the dirt at Oaklawn Mar. 17, rallying to finish second behind Secret Circle. Optimizer, who was produced by an A.P. INDY mare, was second in last year’s G2 With Anticipation S. at Saratoga and also placed in the G1 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October. Bluegrass Hall’s Brad Kelley, the majority owner of ENGLISH CHANNEL, recently made a huge splash on the industry when it was announced he was purchasing historic Calumet Farm.
The month of May has seen ENGLISH CHANNEL’s son The Pizza Man easily win an Arlington Park optional claimer May 18, his daughter Trois Aureole win a $55,000 one-mile allowance at Betfair Hollywood Park May 10, and his son English Progress take a maiden special over the same course and distance May 4. Over in Europe, the colt One Dream Ticket captured a conditions event at prestigious Longchamp racecourse near Paris May 3.
At Santa Anita in April, ENGLISH CHANNEL’s Blueskiesnrainbows, a Bob Baffert-trained colt, made all the pace in the G1 Santa Anita Derby and battled bravely to the wire to finish third, beaten less than a length by now dual Classic winner I’ll Have Another and Preakness third Creative Cause. Blueskiesnrainbows, bred by the late Ned Evans and sold as a yearling by Lane’s End, was making his stakes debut.
On the same day as the Santa Anita Derby, ENGLISH CHANNEL’s 3-year-old colt Star Channel lived up to 4-5 advanced billing with an initial stakes victory in the $75,000 Sophomore Turf S. at Tampa Bay. Coming off two straight impressive wins at Gulfstream, the bay was pinched back at the break, but came flying in the lane to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Star Channel was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Rogers Jr. and is trained by Todd Pletcher.
At Keeneland, ENGLISH CHANNEL’s son Potomac River put up what the TDN called a “stunning performance” in his second career start, making a huge move on the backstretch to challenge for the lead and motoring down the lane to win going away by three lengths. The colt is owned and trained by William Helmbrecht.
ENGLISH CHANNEL is also the sire of another promising colt in the form of James T. Scatuorchio’s homebred Captain Webb, a maiden special winner going two turns at Saratoga and later placed in the one-mile King Cugat S. at Aqueduct at two. He recently came back at three to win an optional claiming race as the favorite at Gulfstream Apr. 5 and looks headed for stakes company next.
Looking back at ENGLISH CHANNEL’s top 2011 performers, his daughter Ann of the Dance was simply awesome the day she overcame a terrible start to win a 5 1/2-furlong maiden dash at Arlington over the summer. She stretched out to beat males in an allowance event at the track in August, then rallied from last to place in the G3 Arlington-Washington Lassie S. in September. In December, she closed out her year with a good third in the grassy Ginger S. at Gulfstream, when she clipped heels but still came flying to be beaten just 3/4 lengths. ENGLISH CHANNEL’s son Channel Quest, meanwhile, ran second in the one-mile Continental S. at Monmouth while still a maiden.
At the sales, ENGLISH CHANNEL’s yearlings brought up to $200,000, and mares selling in foal to ENGLISH CHANNEL included the stakes winners Storm Alert (Storm Cat), Laurafina (Cozenne), She’s a Mugs (Doneraile Court)), Bauhauser (Arg) (Numerous), and India Divina (Chi) (Roy), meaning there will be some nice ENGLISH CHANNELs in the pipeline.
Undoubtedly, we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg from ENGLISH CHANNEL’s runners. Considering what he’s already accomplished, that’s pretty exciting. Especially if you’ve got one in your barn.