05/20/2005 11:00PM

Woodlawn: English Channel rolls


For more than the first six furlongs of the $100,000 on Saturday at Pimlico, heavy favorite English Channel had absolutely nowhere to go. But once he found room, he unleashed a powerful turn of foot that carried him to a four-length victory and served notice he will be a force in important grass races for 3-year-olds this summer.

English Channel ($3) was making his stakes debut after having won 2 of his previous 3 starts, including a runaway victory against a first-level allowance field at Keeneland in his last start. On Saturday, jockey John Velazquez had to wait patiently for room to develop. English Channel did the rest.

"He didn't break very well, and then I had to bide my time," Velazquez said. "He has a great turn of foot."

The course was rated good following day-long rain on Friday. The early pace reflected the nature of the course, with T.D. Vance leading through fractions of 24.32 seconds, 49.77, and 1:14.77 for the first six furlongs. But English Channel came home so strongly that he finished his final five-sixteenths of a mile in well less than 30 seconds while completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.55.

Todd Pletcher trains English Channel for owner James Scatourchio. A 3-year-old son of Smart Strike, who was purchased as a yearling for $50,000, English Channel earned $60,000 for the victory.

United, who shook clear at the top of the stretch, finished second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Holy Ground.

"He was just second best," said Edgar Prado, who rode United.

Mighty Mecke finished last in his turf debut.

English Channel, United, and Mighty Mecke also had been entered in the Home of the Free Stakes on Friday at Belmont, but their trainers opted for the Woodlawn. Wallstreet Scandal, who ran in the Home of the Free, was scratched from the Woodlawn.