2022 Elkhorn Stakes, Ben Ali & Doubledogdare Stakes Recaps

Two very different horses took the honours at Keeneland on Saturday, with 44-race veteran Channel Maker rolling back the years to win the turf marathon 2022 Elkhorn Stakes, and the lightly raced, fast-improving Scalding stretching his winning streak to four in the G3 Ben Ali. Twenty-four hours earlier, champion three-year-old filly Malathaat had lit up Friday’s card with her presence and a battling victory in the G3 Doubledogdare.

Channel makes it in style

2022 Elkhorn Stakes – Grade 2

He’d never really been away, but he certainly came back with a bang. Channel Maker shrugged off his veteran status, a long losing streak, and an unfamiliar stalking role when setting a new stakes-record time in the 2022 Elkhorn Stakes, the feature at Keeneland racecourse on Saturday.

The eight-year-old seems to have been around forever, and rolled back the years with a thoroughly game display, grinding it out from mid-stretch to beat Another Mystery by a length and a quarter, with Bemma’s Boy a half-length away third and the favourite Two Emmys a weak and weary seventh of eight. The clock showed 2:27.10, the fastest Elkhorn on record.

“He’s a real warrior, I thought the old guy still had a little fire in the furnace,” said trainer Bill Mott. “You’ve got to love him, he’s been a lot of fun.”

The Elkhorn was fun. Two Emmys went straight to the lead to set steady fractions, with 7-2 third-choice Channel Maker on his tail for the first mile. The front-runner began to drop back around the turn and Channel Maker took over at the top of the lane, and although it looked a little like hard work he was never seriously threatened and just kept rolling to post his first win since October 2020.

“He’s a tricky horse,” said winning rider Luis Saez. “We just tried to be in the clear and let him settle. You have to let him decide when he’s going to make his move, and at the top of the stretch it was all about him.”

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Channel Maker wins and set a new stakes-record time in the 2022 Elkhorn Stakes #Horseacing #Horseracingtips #Horse #Horses #FYP #Sports

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This was the eighth win of Channel Maker’s long and storied career, which has embraced four G1 victories including two scores in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. His next step could be the G1 Man o’War at Belmont Park on May 14, a race he won in 2019, with a sixth appearance at the Breeders’ Cup here in November the long-term plan.

Scalding turns up the heat

Ben Ali Stakes – Grade 3

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Scalding has been on a rolling boil throughout 2022 and took his winning streak to four with an impressive success in the Ben Ali.

The four-year-old has climbed the ladder step by step for veteran trainer Shug McGaughey and posted another career-best here, the 5-1 third-choice having the race in the bag at the stretch call and keeping on with disregard to the late rally of Dynamic One that came up a length and a quarter short. Proxy plugged on for third, beaten an extra length and three-quarters, while the favoured Warrant faded in the last sixteenth and was pushed back into fourth on the line. The clock stopped at 1:50 and two-fifths.

“I liked the way he did it,” said jockey Javier Castellano, winning the Ben Ali for a record fifth time. “He made a nice sweeping move and I really liked the way he finished.”

Canadian Horse of the Year Mighty Heart cut out the early running at a decent lick from Cowboy Diplomacy and Warrant but had nothing left on the turn – he needs to go back to Woodbine – and Castellano didn’t fool around, sending Scalding into a game of catch-me-if-you-can . . . and they couldn’t. The two pace horses dropped away to be the last two home, so Warrant’s performance to hang on in there as long as he did is to be credited, and remembered.

It was not as memorable as Scalding’s effort, though. The late-maturing Nyquist colt is now four-for-six in a career that only began in November, and with two G3s on his record he is now booked for a move up in class.

Malathaat reigns supreme on comeback

Doubledogdare Stakes – Grade 3

It looked an easy option for last year’s champion three-year-old filly Malathaat, but the Doubledogdare at Keeneland on Friday turned into a stern examination, albeit one that the Eclipse Award winner emerged from with a pass grade of distinction.

While the big names took each other on at Oaklawn Park the following day, Malathaat was sent away at 1-5 to account for lesser opposition, but she had to really dig in under a drive to prevail by three-quarters of a length from the rallying Bonny South, stopping the clock in 1:44 and three-fifths. There was a length back to third-place dead-heaters Super Quick and Lady Mystify.

“Down the lane I went to make her switch her lead and she got lost looking for the field,” said jockey John Velazquez. “Then the runner-up got to her and she went on again. We know when she gets to the lead she starts waiting, so it was a good comeback for her.”

Halfway down the backstretch Malathaat was a full ten lengths behind the freewheeling leader Lady Mystify, but she closed up the deficit without fuss and never looked in danger of defeat once she’d made the lead. It wasn’t visually impressive, but it will set her up nicely for her next test in the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 11.

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Malathaat lit up Friday’s card with a battling victory in the G3 Doubledogdare #Horseacing #Horseracingtips #Horse #Horses #FYP #Sports

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“She was all class in the end,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, winning his fifth Doubledogdare. “We didn’t want to overdo it for her first start. We knew she really likes it here, so this was really about the timing of this race and when she was ready.”

This victory was the seventh of Malathaat’s stellar nine-race career, which includes wins in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, the G1 Ashland and the G1 Alabama. Now she will go back into the big league, with a clash with champion older mare Letruska a mouthwatering prospect for the months ahead.

Check the 2023 Elkhorn, Ben Ali & Doubledogdare Stakes recap

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