‘I Never Imagined Getting A Champion’: Hill Reflects On Channel Maker’s Eclipse Season

Randy Hill’s perseverance over two decades of owning thoroughbreds was rewarded this week when his multiple Grade 1-winner Channel Maker was crowned 2020 Champion Turf Male at Thursday’s Eclipse Awards.

Owned by Hill’s R.A. Hill Stable in partnership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable, Channel Maker posted two gate-to-wire Grade 1 victories on the NYRA circuit in 2020 with triumphs in the Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park, the latter of which he also won in 2018.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the Ontario-bred son of 2007 Champion Turf Male English Channel capped off his Eclipse Award-winning season with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland, where he replicated his career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure earned in his previous two races.

“When I first got in the game, I just wanted to win a Grade 1 or two, but I never imagined getting a champion,” Hill said.

The racing bug bit Hill at a young age when attending the races at Monmouth Park with his mother. But it wasn’t until 2000 that the mutual fund owner and financial services executive ventured into buying racehorses. Among the first horses he purchased was a Broad Brush colt by the name of Maybry’s Boy, with the hope of eventually having a horse good enough to run at Saratoga.

“I named him after my mother. Her name was Maybry and I was her boy,” Hill said.

Maybry’s Boy went on to win the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid in 2002 at Gulfstream Park in the first start of his 3-year-old campaign, and it didn’t take long for Hill to get hooked.

“Maybry’s Boy was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby futures book after the Spectacular Bid. I thought, ‘Oh this game isn’t that hard,’” Hill recalled with a laugh.

Although Maybry’s Boy never did see graded stakes success after the Spectacular Bid, Hill stayed in the ownership game enjoying success with graded stakes winner Devil’s Preacher and dual stakes winner and graded stakes placed turf sprinter Fiddlers Patriot, who gave Hill his first stakes winner on the NYRA circuit when taking the 2012 Willard Straight at Saratoga.

Even then, Hill said owning a multiple Grade 1-winning champion seemed far-fetched.

“I had about a year and a half where I had maybe one winner and I kept on getting all these bills,” Hill recalled.

The past few years have certainly been more prosperous for Hill, who began partnering with several other owners in campaigning top-class horses. In addition to Channel Maker, he owned last year’s Grade 1 Runhappy Carter and Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile winner Vekoma in partnership with Mike Gatsas’ Gatsas Stables.

The son of Candy Ride was a finalist for Champion Sprinter, which was won by Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Whitmore. Vekoma is currently standing his first year at stud at B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm.

Hill is also a part owner of multiple graded stakes winner Tax and New York-bred stakes winner Funny Guy.

“This year, to get an Eclipse champion, and a horse like Vekoma to become a stallion prospect and win multiple Grade 1 races has just been incredible,” Hill said.

Hill credits jockey Manny Franco for helping Channel Maker improve last season. Following his pair of front-running Grade 1 wins, Channel Maker was again forwardly placed in the Breeders Cup Turf and held a 2 1/2-length lead at the stretch call only giving way in the shadow of the wire when a length back of the victorious Tarnawa and edged a nose for second by Magical.

“Manny really fit him like a glove and turned him around by putting him on the front end,” Hill said. “Also, English Channel horses get better with age. That said, I was expecting him to get better. I always believed that he would get better. I really thought in the Breeders Cup that we were home. He got beat for second by a whisker against two of the best turf horses in the world.”

Hill said he is hoping Channel Maker can pick up where he left off in his 2021 bow, which could take place in either the $2.5 million Long Distance Turf Handicap or the $1 million Middle Distance Turf Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia on February 20. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will pilot Channel Maker in his first venture outside of North America.

“That’s no step down,” Hill said of Velazquez taking the irons. “He’s one of the smartest riders I’ve been around, and no one studies the form like him. I have all the confidence in the world in Johnny. We have a Hall of Fame jockey and a Hall of Fame trainer going to Saudi running for millions.”

Hill said he was over the moon to hear the news of Channel Maker’s Eclipse Award and celebrated exactly how one expects an avid wine collector would.

“I couldn’t imagine Channel Maker wouldn’t get it,” Hill said. “But we were thrilled. When I found out he won, I opened a big bottle of Chambertin.”

The thrill of victory is something that Hill relishes and he said it’s even more special to experience such euphoria alongside partners that he calls friends.

“I’m not a huge owner so that many Grade 1 wins is a lot,” Hill said. “I’ve been having fun again and I love the game. I love being in it and I love the people around it. I’m very fortunate to have good partners in Dean Reeves, Mike Gatsas and of course Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel. We’ve all gotten a long very well.”

The post ‘I Never Imagined Getting A Champion’: Hill Reflects On Channel Maker’s Eclipse Season appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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