Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, May 10, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/10/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Channing Hill Circles Back to Chicago; First Mile and a Sixteenth Polytrack Races Carded Saturday

According to playwright Edward Albee’s famous one-act play, “The Zoo Story,” “sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly.”  That axiom could not be more appropriate for jockey Channing Hill and his journey over the last 12 months.

After starting his first Arlington International Racecourse meet in 2012, Hill made the difficult decision to curtail his tenure in early September to take advantage of a riding opportunity in Saudi Arabia.  It was a difficult decision for him, as he had gained the support of prominent horsemen in his first Arlington season and did not want to his first impression to be a capricious one.

The Riyadh experience definitely generated some favorable aspects.  “Riding in Riyadh was great.  It was an experience I’ll always remember, and I’d do it over again,” Hill reflected.  It was a really unique place.  The track was beautiful and the racing was awesome.  The king really puts everything into that place.”

Still, it was not always sunny in the Saudi sands.  “It was a little boring sometimes.  I wish I could have brought Shelbi (his girlfriend and daughter of trainer Wayne Catalano) along with me to keep me company.  There are only so many rounds you can play on your days off until you start to think you’re a terrible golfer,” he frankly acknowledged.


After the desert experience dried up earlier than expected (prematurely ending in December because of circumstances out of his control), Hill took the long way around (the world) back to Chicago.

“I really like Chicago and I really liked Arlington Park and last year’s meet.  I knew it would be a little tough (coming back).  I also wanted to be closer to Shelbi,” he admitted. “Everyone’s really friendly, and I really enjoyed my meet last year.”

Hill is also thrilled to be back in the Windy City, itself.  “It’s more laid back here.  I love it. It’s like a big city with a small town vibe,” Hill said with a smile.

Coming back correctly is definitely going to require some support from the local horsemen.  After finishing the first four days of the 2013 meet in third place for both wins and earnings, it seems that he has been properly embraced.

“The big backing from Danny Peitz and Wayne Catalano is absolutely huge.  Also, people know me now and know that I’m here for the long haul, and I’m here to do well,” Hill humbly stated.   “Jimmy McMullen and one of his owners Vanessa (Nye of Voodoomon Racing Stable) have always been good to me, as well.  It’s been a lot more receptive this year.  People seem to know me more, and it’s more comfortable.”

Though he may have been an Eclipse Award runner-up (2005 Outstanding Apprentice Jockey) and was successful for six seasons on the grueling NYRA circuit, Hill is concisely focused on improving his skills and achieving his goals.  “I want to just get better, as a whole.  I want to be better with my left handed whip, too,” he said.

One renowned jockey whose skills inspire him is two-time Eclipse Award Outstanding Jockey winner and Hall of Famer John Velazquez, alongside whom he rode in New York.  “Johnny is the real deal.  He is a family man, a true professional. He has finesse and rhythm unlike anyone else.  Not only that – he has the best left handed whip I’ve ever seen.  He is a real role model,” Hill explained. 


Hill is aiming high this season, but definitely remains grounded.  “Obviously everyone wants to be leading rider.  I would love to win it – it would be such a great honor.  And, with a lot of the barns evenly distributed out there, it seems like almost anyone has a chance,” he said with an air of optimism.  When asked what he likes most about Arlington, Hill promptly said “All of it!  It’s a place that has everything for families, kids, adults – from the park to the apron.  The kids can go play at the petting zoo and the dad can go place some bets.  It’s a really top notch facility with a beautiful track and such a laid back friendly atmosphere.”

 A year and an intense amount of miles later, Channing Hill returns from around the world with the world ahead of him.  What better place to be for him than one with ‘International’ in the name.

With the first mile and a sixteenth Polytrack races scheduled for Saturday, Arlington bettors are reminded that for 2013 such races will start at the sixteenth pole west of the finish line and end at the regular finish line.  Field size in mile and a sixteenth Polytrack races will be limited to eight (8) starters plus also-eligibles.  The first and fourth races will be contested at the distance.