Channel Cat is hickory. Just 17 days after he won the $400,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs over 1 5/16 miles, he won the $150,000 Bald Eagle Derby over 1 1/2 miles on Saturday at Laurel Park. And he won it easily.
Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Feargal Lynch guided Channel Cat to a 5 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Bald Eagle Derby.
Channel Cat, Feargal Lynch riding for Todd Pletcher and Calumet Farm, collared pace-setting Neepawa on the far turn and put him away in a matter of strides. He opened a clear lead and widened it to the finish, winning by 5 3/4 lengths over late-running Admission Office. Nakamura finished third, and claims of foul by the jockey of fourth-place Neepawa against the top two finishers both were quickly dismissed by Laurel stewards.
Todd Pletcher trains Channel Cat for his breeder, Brad Kelly’s Calumet Farm, and Channel Cat – by English Channel out of Carnival Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy – has thrived since Pletcher stretched him to longer distances the second part of this season. Channel Cat was a solid fourth going 10 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, second to the good older horse Focus Group in an 11-furlong allowance race, and winner last out at Kentucky Downs before comfortably staying 12 furlongs in his first try Saturday.
Neepawa went out to set splits of 25.85 seconds, 51.33, and 1:17.23 which, on a standard course, would be slow, but Laurel’s turf Saturday, called yielding, was radically tiring, and not just by American standards.
“The only place I’ve ridden this soft is Sligo on the west coast of Ireland, which is a bog when it’s wet,” said Lynch, who has plied his trade globally.
Channel Cat didn’t mind it and was only galloping along while tracking the pacesetter.
“He was a bit off the bridle, but he was asleep,” said Lynch. “He wasn’t using up much energy. It was only when I set him alight at the three-eighths pole that he started running."
And Channel Cat has yet to run a distance over which he stops running. He was timed in 2:40.07, a relatively meaningless clocking under conditions this extreme, and paid $6.20 to win.