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Calumet's Channel Cat Looks to Pounce in Turf Cup

Channel Cat, Arklow, and Zulu Alpha are three North American grade 1 winners entered.

Channel Cat (inside) outlasts Gufo to win the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park

Channel Cat (inside) outlasts Gufo to win the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park

Coglianese Photos

Trainer Jack Sisterson aims to keep the presentation "in-house" for the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup Stakes (G2T) at Kentucky Downs Sept. 11.

As a private trainer for Calumet Farm, Sisterston has a leading contender for Saturday's 1 1/2-mile race with Calumet's homebred Channel Cat. The 6-year-old is one of two North American grade 1 winners entered, joining fellow millionaire Arklow.

Channel Cat, winner of the Man o' War Stakes (G1T) in May, is the 9-2 second favorite on the morning line behind 3-1 Arklow, who scored in the race in 2018 and 2020.

"It's humbling to be associated with a farm like Calumet and even have a presence in the race and hopefully represent them in a good way," Sisterson said. "We're excited for Saturday. I think we're going there with a legitimate chance. I'm sure I'll be dreaming Friday night that some representative of the farm will be presenting me a trophy, that sort of thing."

This year the winner will carry an additional prize: an automatic berth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) at Del Mar Nov. 6. The race became part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series this year.

Though Channel Cat isn't a past winner of the Turf Cup like Arklow and Zulu Alpha, he is a local stakes winner, having won the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby as a 3-year-old in 2018 when trained by Todd Pletcher.

Sisterson began conditioning Channel Cat in 2020, a couple of years after Calumet provided him with the start of his training career. Before 2018, he had been one of trainer Doug O'Neill's top assistants. During his time with O'Neill, he oversaw Reddam Racing's Nyquist  when the colt trained at Keeneland leading up to his triumph in the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at Churchill Downs. Keeneland is now Sisterson's base.

In two other top performances this year besides his victory in the Man o' War, Channel Cat ran second in the Elkhorn Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland in the spring and most recently was a close fourth in the Bowling Green Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course July 31.


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Channel Cat is a son of English Channel , the leading grass sire in North America who stands at Brad Kelley's Calumet Farm. Kelley previously owned Kentucky Downs, located in the town of Franklin, Ky., where he grew up.

While Channel Cat has been exhibiting more speed this year under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Arklow has shown less.

Arklow wins the Louisville Stakes Saturday, May 15, 2021 at Churchill Downs
Photo: Coady Photography
Arklow wins the Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs

After capturing the Louisville Stakes (G3T) in his seasonal debut, Arklow was slow into stride in the United Nations Stakes (G1T) and the Del Mar Handicap Presented by the Japan Racing Association (G2T) this summer. He ran a troubled sixth in the July 17 U. N., beaten 5 3/4 lengths, then was seventh, 1 3/4 lengths back, in the Aug. 21 Del Mar Handicap.

The 7-year-old son of Arch, who races for Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger, and the Estate of Peter Coneway and is trained by Brad Cox, captured the 2019 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) in the highest-level win of his career.

Trainer Mike Maker has four entries entries in the main body of the field that include Tide of the Sea, Bluegrass Parkway, Ajourneytofreedom, and Glynn County.

Maker is a four-time Turf Cup winner, having won the race with Da Big Hoss  (2015-16), Oscar Nominated  (2017), and the recently retired Zulu Alpha (2019).

The Turf Cup and $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint Stakes (G3T) from Kentucky Downs will be televised on NBC from 4-5 p.m. CT.  

Entries: Calumet Turf Cup S. (G2T)

Kentucky Downs, Saturday, September 11, 2021, Race 9

  • Grade IIT
  • 1 1/2m
  • Turf
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 4:44 PM (local)
11Imperador (ARG)Joseph Talamo122Paulo H. Lobo15/1
22Crossfirehurricane (KY)Flavien Prat122Michael W. McCarthy20/1
33Channel Cat (KY)John R. Velazquez124Jack Sisterson9/2
44Tide of the Sea (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateLuis Saez124Michael J. Maker6/1
55Arklow (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux124Brad H. Cox3/1
66Bluegrass Parkway (KY)Julien R. Leparoux124Michael J. Maker20/1
77Fantasioso (ARG)UMBERTO RISPOLI122Ignacio Correas, IV12/1
88Ajourneytofreedom (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateIrad Ortiz, Jr.124Michael J. Maker10/1
99Glynn County (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Gaffalione124Michael J. Maker15/1
1010Epic Bromance (KY)Joe Bravo122J. Kent Sweezey15/1
1111Zulu Alpha (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.122Michael J. Maker6/1
1212Breakpoint (CHI)Jose L. Ortiz122Steven M. Asmussen20/1
1313Big Dreaming (KY)Corey J. Lanerie122Wayne M. Catalano20/1
1414Artemus Eagle (KY)Chase Miller122Waylon Cundiff30/1
1515Dynadrive (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz122Michael J. Maker20/1
1616Time for Trouble (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn McKee122Jeff A. Hiles30/1