2005 Virginia Derby Winner English Channel Dies While Atop 2021 Turf Earnings List

The following appeared on Daily Racing Form’s website November 12 and was written by Nicole Russo. English Channel won two major stakes at Colonial Downs in 2005 — the Colonial Turf Cup and 2005 Virginia Derby.

Eclipse Award champion turf horse and leading turf sire English Channel died Thursday morning following an illness. One of the heirs to leading sire Smart Strike, English Channel was 19.

Calumet Farm reported Wednesday that its prominent sire was likely to miss the 2022 breeding season after being “diagnosed with multiple health issues.” The exact nature of the issues were not disclosed. The stallion’s health continued to worsen despite treatment.

“English Channel’s health rapidly declined in the past 24 hours, and under the care of top equine specialists at Rood and Riddle, English Channel has passed this morning,” a second press release issued Thursday by Calumet stated.

English Channel wins the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Photo by Gary Rothstein of EqipPhoto.

English Channel, purchased as a yearling by James Scatuorchio and trained throughout his career by Todd Pletcher, hinted at his ability as a 3-year-old in 2005, winning the Grade 3 Virginia Derby and placing in two Grade 1 events. He blossomed as an older horse, breaking through with a Grade 1 win the following spring in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, then adding Grade 1 scores in the United Nations at Monmouth – a course that would prove important to his career – and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont. He finished third in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.

The following year, English Channel repeated in both the United Nations and the Joe Hirsch and placed in two other Grade 1 events in New York. In his career finale, he secured his divisional Eclipse Award with a seven-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth. He won in a then-course-record 2:36.96, despite the soft going.

English Channel, who earned more than $5.3 million, retired to Hurricane Hall near Lexington, Ky., for the 2008 breeding season. That property was co-owned by Brad Kelley, who had acquired an interest in the young stallion.

When the partnership behind the Hurricane Hall stallions dissolved, English Channel in 2010 moved to Lane’s End to stand alongside his sire, Smart Strike. For the 2015 season, English Channel made his final move, to Calumet, after Kelley had assumed control of the historic property.

English Channel is represented by 66 stakes winners as a stallion, including 12 Grade 1 winners. Those are led by multimillionaire Channel Maker. Already a Canadian champion and classic winner, and a multiple Grade 1 winner, Channel Maker won two Grade 1 events and finished third in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Turf to earn a divisional Eclipse Award. The gelding helped propel his sire to the top of the turf earnings list, taking over the title from Kitten’s Joy, who had been North America’s leading living turf sire each year since 2013.

English Channel is again leading the turf earnings list this season, with Grade 1 winners Channel Cat, Two Emmys, and War Like Goddess. Two Emmys captured the Mr. D Stakes, formerly known as the Arlington Million, to give English Channel his second winner of that prestigious event, joining popular runner The Pizza Man.

English Channel also is the sire of Grade 1-winning Canadian champions Heart to Heart, Interpol, and Johnny Bear; Canadian champion and classic winner Strait of Dover; Canadian champion Admirality Pier; and Grade 1 winners Al’s Gal, The Pizza Man, V. E. Day, and Voodoo Song.

Moreover, English Channel has consistently been a category leader on the Beyer Sire Performance StandingsDaily Racing Form’s exclusive stallion metrics. The standings provide totals and percentages for progeny who surpass specific Beyer benchmarks in North American races.

English Channel led all sires by progeny who surpassed the benchmark Beyer of 90 or above on turf in 2020. He is again leading that category in 2021 and also leads by progeny to surpass 100 or above on turf. He also was among the top sires on the overall list the past four years despite having a significantly lower stud fee than the others at the top of the standings.

English Channel, who will be buried in the historic Calumet cemetery, will have several more crops coming through the pipeline. He has 85 yearlings and 71 weanlings, according to statistics from The Jockey Club, and covered 57 mares in his final season. He has four sons advertised at stud to carry his legacy.