HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Displaying both his talent and courage, Star Channel made his first start for trainer Eddie Kenneally an interesting – and successful – one.
The 5-year-old son of English Channel dueled with Grade 2 winner Old Time Hockey down the stretch and emerged from a photo finish a nose in front at the wire to win the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
It was the second stakes win on the Sunshine Millions program for Kenneally and third for jockey Jose Lezcano, who each had to wait out both a stewards’ inquiry and objection from Gary Stevens, the Hall of Fame rider of Old Time Hockey, for interference in the stretch.
“Nervous? Yeah, that was close,” Kenneally said. “There was not much between the photo and the fact that there was a lot of contact, plenty of contact, when I saw it on the head-on. I wasn’t sure what way it was going to go. I don’t know who was causing the bumping, but it looked like it was going to go 50-50, and thankfully it came our way.”
Sent off at 8-1 in the field of 10 older Florida-bred grass horses, Star Channel ($19.20) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.64 on a firm turf course. Old Time Hockey was second, a half-length ahead of 7-5 favorite Bad Debt. Blameshifter, at 17-1, was another 1 ¼ lengths back in fourth.
“He showed up and ran a big race, absolutely,” Kenneally said. “The distance is exactly what he wants to do. That’s how he likes to run, and he had a big day.”
Breaking from post five, Lezcano let Star Channel settle into a stalking spot behind pacesetter Racing Aptitude, who led through a quarter-mile in 23.51 seconds and a half in 48.04. Old Time Hockey came from post 10 and was able to save ground inside, taking over after six furlongs in 1:11.64 and a mile in 1:35.58.
Lezcano and Star Channel ranged up on the outside of Old Time Hockey to make his bid, and the two horses ran side-by-side down the lane making contact several times as they approached the wire.
“He broke really good,” Lezcano said. “He tried hard the whole way and never quit. In the stretch, [Old Time Hockey] touched my horse first. I know it looked like we touched him first, but really he was coming out. It was my first time riding him, but I watched a few of his replays.”
Star Channel is trained by Gerry Carwood, but is spending the winter in south Florida with Kenneally. The win was his third in four tries on the Gulfstream Park turf course, including a maiden win to close his 2-year-old season, and an optional claiming allowance victory to kick off 2012 for previous trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He’ll go back with Gerry in the spring,” Kenneally said. “We’ll just play it by ear, chat with the owner and see what they want to do next.”
With the win, Star Channel improved his lifetime record to 7-1-2 from 21 starts, with $394,855 in purse earnings.
Spring Up, Hobbs, Tiz Gianni, Racing Aptitude, Bim Bam and Tune Me In completed the order of finish.
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