10/28/2007 11:00PM

English Channel sets record margin

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - It sometimes looks like Todd Pletcher is made of Teflon - not a knock on Pletcher, rather a mirror into his ultra-organized, fanatically professional approach to training racehorses and running one of the world's most powerful stables.

But as eight horses were walked back and forth, back and forth, in the saddling enclosure before the Breeders' Cup Turf, Pletcher for a couple moments stared almost as if distracted down at the ground, pushing back and forth with his toe a carpet of wood chips. Pletcher already had come close to knocking down a BC win Saturday with Honey Ryder, who had closed for second in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Octave, who finished well for third in the Distaff. But Breeders' Cup wins have been rare animals for the Pletcher stable, and it seemed fair to wonder if, waiting to put a saddle on English Channel for his start in the Turf, Pletcher was pondering another potential shutout.

English Channel, up close and personal, is a surprisingly small racehorse - but 15 minutes or so after Pletcher's pensive moment, English Channel put a gigantic exclamation point on the stretch run of the BC Turf. After a fifth in the 2005 BC Turf, and a third in 2006, English Channel handed Pletcher one of the most lopsided wins in Breeders' Cup history, humbling his rivals with a seven-length victory.

Perfectly placed just off a slow pace by jockey John Velazquez, English Channel seized control of the race turning into the stretch, and was all alone at the finish. The magnitude of his score equaled the fifth-largest margin of victory in any Breeders' Cup race, and was much greater than in any other turf race in BC history. Banks Hill had won the Filly and Mare turf by 5 1/2 lengths, previously the largest

winning margin in a BC turf race.

The victory gave Pletcher his fourth BC

winner from 48 starters, and was his first on Saturday after seven defeats. It also handed a gratifying win to owner James Scatuorchio, a resident of Rumson, N.J., just a few miles north of Monmouth Park.

"I couldn't have scripted it any better," said Scatuorchio. "That's what you dream about."

Scatuorchio basically was watching his

stable star ride off into the sunset. After a four-season career that produced six Grade 1 wins and more than $5.3 million in earnings, English Channel, a son of Smart Strike bred by Keene Ridge Farm, has been retired to stud at Hurricane Hall Farm in Lexington, Ky.

As perfectly as everything went for English Channel on Saturday, Dylan Thomas had a

perfectly nightmarish experience. The final tally was a distant fifth-place finish for the shortest-priced favorite (4-5) in this year's Breeders' Cup, and the 10th straight loss for Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners in the BC Turf.

Dylan Thomas won the Arc three weekends earlier, on a turf course supposedly softer than the type he prefers. But the grass at Monmouth was much softer, and it rendered him basically helpless. Sixth in the early going, Dylan Thomas came under a hard ride from Johnny Murtagh more than a half-mile from the finish, with Murtagh whipping the horse several times to try and get him into contention.

"I just wanted to give him a smack to try and get him into the bridle again, to give him a chance, but he couldn't do it," Murtagh said.

Murtagh, in fact, said he had gotten a bad feeling from Dylan Thomas even as the grand-looking horse warmed up on Monmouth's

sloppy main track. Dylan Thomas always has been considered a firm-turf horse, and beyond that, the effects of a long, hard nine-start campaign could well have begun to show on Saturday.

He, too, probably made his final start Saturday, since trainer Aidan O'Brien was quoted after the Arc as saying that Dylan Thomas was unlikely to be back in training next year. His fifth-place finish marked the first time he had been worse than second this year.

English Channel, the second choice at 3-1, paid $8 to win, and was timed in 2:36.96 for the 1 1/2 miles on the wettest turf imaginable. The 25-1 shot Shamdinan raced in second virtually the entire race, and was three-quarters of a length better than last year's winner, Red Rocks, who checked in third. Behind Red Rocks came Better Talk Now, who was fourth in his fourth BC Turf appearance. Grand Couturier, Fri Guy, and Transduction Gold completed the order of finish.