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Barn Notes: Wednesday, May 7, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/08/2014 #
  • Jockey Channing Hill holds his newborn son Wayllen. (Photo courtesy Channing Hill)

In Today’s Notes: “House Baby” Born to Channing and Shelbi Hill; Lassie Winner She’s Offlee Good Works Toward 2014 Debut

“HOUSE BABY” BABY BORN TO CHANNING AND SHEBLI HILL
The Arlington International Racecourse family welcomed a new addition on Friday, May 2, 2014, when local jockey Channing Hill and his wife Shelbi bore their first son, Wayllen.  Shelbi, the daughter of perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano and a former employee of the Arlington racing office, delivered the strapping young lad at 10:55am in greater Chicago, hours before her husband and father raced James Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. 

Shelbi nailed it right on the head,” explained Channing. “Two months ago, when I was on (Oaks entrant) Sugar Shock in the Honeybee (Stakes) at Oaklawn Park, she told me ‘you know the baby’s going to come on Oaks Day, now,’ – and of course she was right.

“I was out there the night before and everything was fine – then I left for Kentucky.  We just knew (the baby would wind up coming).  She gave me a call about 7:00 a.m. and I was at Danny Peitz’ Churchill barn. She, as relaxed as you could ever ask, told me she was ‘having a baby’,” he continued.  “She went to the hospital about 6:00 in the morning and the baby was born just before 11:00.  Obviously I contemplated driving back (from Kentucky), but there was no way I could have made it.  The doctor said it would be delivered before noon.

“By the time she actually had the baby I was sitting in the jocks’ room because it’s a nightmare to get around (Churchill Downs) on Oaks Day,” said Channing.  “They had me on the phone (during labor).  It was great,” he continued.  “Shelbi did such a great job.  She’s such an easy going person. I would have been freaking out, running around like crazy.  She’s just so calm all the time and absolute pro.”

Asked if the stress of such a life-altering moment affected his ride later on that afternoon, Channing commented to the contrary.  “It was actually a little easier to ride (the Oaks) after (the baby’s birth), because by the time we ran the race it was around 6:00 and I knew they were both doing really well,” he elaborated.  “With Shelbi, there’s not a whole lot to worry about.  I think if she was having the baby at that stage (during the race), it would have been much harder to focus.”

Born Wayllen Richard Hill – the same middle name as his father and grandfather - the “House Baby” with so many Arlington connections was also given Peitz, local trainer and consummate employer of Hill, as one of his godparents.  “I’m stacking up all my barns,” laughed Channing. 

The name Wayllen is a stacking, of sorts, as well.  “It’s a merger of our fathers’ names.  Shelbi’s is obviously Wayne and my father’s name is Allen.  That way we can ensure the baby is properly crazy,” he said with a grin.

Back at Arlington with hopes of following up a solid 2013 meet and happy to be reacquainted with his home and work families, Channing resonates contentment.  “I drove back Friday right after the race and made it back at about 11:00.  I got lucky enough to have Saturday off and got to spend it with Shelbi and Wayllen,” he said.  “I’m really glad to be back.”         

LASSIE WINNER SHE’S OFFLEE GOOD WORKS TOWARD 2014 DEBUT
Holmark Stables II’s She’s Offlee Good, an impressive winner of the Listed Arlington-Washington Lassie last September in her second start, has been working steadily for trainer Richie Scherer.  The daughter of Offlee Wild worked an easy five furlongs on May 4 in 1:03 – her fourth consecutive weekly work. 

“She’s doing well.  She’s close to running,” explained Scherer.  “There’s really nothing against straight 3-year-olds she’s eligible for here at Arlington, but I hope something pops up.  I’m trying to find something.  If there’s nothing here, I am looking at a race in the middle of June at Canterbury (Park).”

She’s Offlee Good lived up to her name on debut at Arlington on Aug. 1, defeating Hernandez Racing Club’s highly regarded Tamazula in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight. Subsequently, she beat that fast filly and nine others the Lassie, but faltered in the Grade I Alcibiades in October.  After being shipped to Fair Grounds for the winter, she ran another lackluster race in the six-furlong Letellier Memorial Stakes in December – her first race on dirt. 

“The race at Keeneland was a throwout, for sure,” Scherer said.  “The Fair Grounds race was her first try on dirt.  I’m not sure she dislikes the dirt, but she didn’t take to it that day.  After that, I gave her a little break in Louisiana.  We turned her out and when we got her back we didn’t do much breezing because I didn’t want to breeze her on the Fair Grounds dirt.  I think she’ll make a very good Poly and grass filly, and I don’t know her distance limitations yet.”

“The thing with 3-year-olds is that some turn the corner and some don’t.  Some are as good as they’ll ever be at two.  If she shows up and runs well, who knows – maybe we’ll even try the (Grade III Arlington) Oaks (July 19), but first she has to show up.  She’s doing well right now and we’ll know where she stands soon.  First, I would like to regain her confidence and take it one race at a time,” Scherer concluded. 

Also on the worktab this week was the aforementioned Tamazula.  Trained by Armando De La Cerda, the daughter of Two Step Salsa is coming off an impressive fourth-place finish in a Keeneland allowance, where she was bumped badly at the break and rallied from last to lose by just over two lengths. 

“She is doing really good,” De La Cerda said.  “She likes the Poly a lot and is happy to be back here.”  The Florida-bred bay worked a bullet five furlongs on May 2 in 1:00.00 and is being aimed toward an Arlington allowance race on May 15 at six furlongs on the main course.