12/02/2013 1:02PM

Hot Sire: English Channel


Courtesy Lane's EndEnglish Channel

English Channel, 2007’s champion turf male, drew notices as a young stallion in 2012 when he finished fourth on the North American second-crop sire list and 13th on the turf sire list. This year, the 11-year-old Smart Strike horse has continued to stand out among a good group of third-crop sires that includes Street Sense, Scat Daddy, and Hard Spun, and has moved up to seventh on the turf sire list. English Channel’s sons and daughters have racked up 11 more stakes wins through Nov. 24, the latest coming in a 45.70-1 upset when Potomac River took the Grade 3 River City Handicap on Nov. 23 over the Churchill Downs turf for his first stakes victory.

Much of the success to date for English Channel has come from his first Northern Hemisphere crop, foaled in 2009. Potomac River, a solid allowance runner who elevated his game at the most opportune time for his connections and backers at the mutuel window, is from this crop. The 4-year-old is out of Reba’s Approval, a winning daughter of 1989 Canadian Horse of the Year, Canadian Triple Crown winner, and long-distance specialist With Approval. His dam is a half-sister to dirt Grade 3 winner and $700,000-earner Reba’s Gold, and the family includes Grade 1 winner and $2.5-million earner Dramatic Gold, a sound, tough competitor on the handicap circuit during the mid- and late-1990s who finished third in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

One common denominator among English Channel’s best runners is that they have not been precocious and have instead developed into stakes winners over time. In that respect, they have emulated their sire, who raced only once as a juvenile for owner James Scatuorchio and trainer Todd Pletcher but transformed into one of the best American turf horses of the 2000s during his 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old seasons.

By the time English Channel retired in fall 2007, he had won 13 of 23 starts and
10 stakes – six of them Grade 1s – for earnings of $5,319,028. His last race was his best, an overpowering, course-record setting, seven-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth Park.

Scatuorchio retired English Channel to Hurricane Hall in Lexington, Ky., after the Breeders’ Cup and sold a majority interest in the horse to Hurricane Hall partner Brad Kelley, who would later buy Calumet Farm. After two seasons, English Channel was relocated to Will Farish’s Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., where his sire serves as the farm’s flagship stallion after leading the North American earnings list in 2007 and 2008. English Channel will stand the 2014 season for $25,000, the same fee as in 2013. He was bred to 101 mares this year, according to Jockey Club statistics.

Through Nov. 24, progeny from English Channel’s three crops of racing age have won 218 races and earned more than $8.7 million. He has already sired a champion – 2012 Sovereign Award winner Strait of Dover, who set a track record at Woodbine for 2:01.99 for 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack in that year’s Queen’s Plate, but unfortunately suffered an injury later that summer and died earlier this year before returning to the racetrack.

Optimizer, arguably English Channel’s best runner to date, also has a course record to his name. The Brad Kelley-owned, D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt set the mark of 1:47.27 for 1 1/8 miles on Delaware Park’s turf when winning the Grade 3 Kent Stakes last year. The now-4-year-old colt, who is related to several Grade 1 winners including very good broodmare Fantastic Find and top-class steeplechaser Tax Ruling, has gradually developed into a tough competitor on grass after targeting the Triple Crown prep races early in 2012. He has earned more than $900,000 and this year posted runner-up efforts in two Grade 1 turf events in addition to picking up two Grade 3 wins.

The Pizza Man, a somewhat overlooked member of English Channel’s first crop, is a 4-year-old Illinois-bred gelding who has racked up two more stakes wins this year on the Midwest circuit. The Midwest Thoroughbreds homebred is yet another course-record holder, setting a 1:39.33 mark for 1 1/16 miles on Arlington Park’s turf in 2012. Other notable performers this year include Grade 2 Dixie Stakes winner Skyring; dual Grade 3-winning filly Channel Lady; and Blueskiesnrainbows. The latter is English Channel’s best dirt runner to date, picking up a Grade 2 win as a 3-year-old in the 2012 Swaps Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park and posting a game effort last month when second in the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

As previously mentioned, English Channel’s best runners so far have developed late and generally performed best on turf, and the stallion’s own pedigree is heavily oriented to that surface. He is out of the unraced mare Belva, by champion and prominent turf sire Theatrical, and his second dam is English and French champion Committed, by Hagley. Committed also produced turf Grade 1 winner Pharma and multiple turf graded stakes winner and sire Hap. English Channel has no inbreeding through his first five generations.

Every one of English Channel’s sons or daughters discussed here has a graded stakes win at 1 1/8 miles or longer – Potomac River is the latest, earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the River City. Clearly, English Channel is passing on stamina to his best progeny, which opens up possibilities for breeders intent on finding the right match that could produce a potential Kentucky Derby horse. On that front, English Channel’s multiple graded stakes-placed full brother Sedgefield was fifth in the 2007 classic in one of the best Derby fields of the past 10 years.