Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, May 5, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/05/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Jockey Channing Hill Overlooking New Horizons at Arlington; Rosemary Homeister Jr. Approaching 2,500 Career-Win Milestone

Of course Channing Hill was destined to be a jockey. As the son of Midwestern-based reinsman Alan Hill, the 24-year-old youngster was born and raised in the racetrack-savvy town of Grand Island, Nebraska, so his chosen profession was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

"My Dad knew how tough it was – the life of a jockey," Hill said during training hours at Arlington Saturday morning, "so he actually tried to push me away from the racetrack, but it didn't work. Once the racetrack gets in your blood, it doesn't go away. He'd have rather I had gone on with my education, but I had started riding when I was 16-years-old during the summers at Prairie Meadows while I was still in school, and as soon as I graduated I started riding full- time.

"Now, he's just a proud father for me and happy for my success," Hill said. "I talk to him every day, and he still helps me out by giving me advice and suggestions when he can."

Hill's ability was so obvious it wasn't long before he had an opportunity to transfer his talents to the major east coast circuits of Maryland and New York, and despite that major leap in competition Hill's success continued without interruption.

When the 2005 racing season concluded, Hill was a finalist for that year's Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey.

"You know, such a big part of this business is luck," the well-spoken Hill said with typical modesty. "A big part of my success in New York was due to the fact that I had a really good agent and things just took off for me from there."

Other highlights of his years in New York included a victory in the Grade I Forego Handicap at Saratoga in 2008 aboard First Defense, but he also won Maryland's Grade I Barbara Fritchie on Golden Dawn and the Grade III Black-Eyed Susan that year astride Sweet Vendetta.

"However, last September I broke my ankle in a spill and was away from the races for about three months. When I came back I had lost a lot of my momentum.

"I was looking for a new place to ride during the winter and when I was contacted by (Arlington and Oaklawn agent) Jay Fedor, I was quick to jump at the opportunity," Hill said. "Together, we enjoyed some success at Hot Springs and when he asked me if I wanted to try my luck in Chicago I was quick to agree. We got to Chicago in time for the last couple of weeks at Hawthorne, and now I'm looking forward to the long summer at Arlington and the chance to get some more exposure at another major race track."

So far, success has come quickly at Arlington for Hill, who won with the first Arlington mount of his career on Lawana and Robert Low's Lawful Lady for trainer Danny Peitz in the third race on opening day and made it two straight with a tally aboard Thunderhead Farm's Billy Two Hats in Friday's fifth race for Kelly Von Hemel. "I've known Kelly since I started riding at Prairie and with that second race yesterday I really didn't think I was going to overtake the leader, but my horse really dug in for me. He just wouldn't give up."

With the only riding double on opening day at Arlington, Hill enjoyed a narrow lead in the jockey standings at the end of the day.

"It's always important to get off to a good start wherever you go," said Hill. "Naturally, I'm very pleased I was able to win two races on the first day. I've been to Chicago before, but I never rode a race at Arlington until yesterday.

"My father is a big Cubs fan," concluded Hill. "We've been to Wrigley Field before to watch the Cubs play, and now that I'm riding here I'm looking forward to having him come up here to Chicago on Father's Day and take him to another game at Wrigley."


Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr., already firmly ensconced as the world's second leading rider of all time but campaigning at Arlington for the first time this season, won the fourth race here on opening day Friday aboard Carson Springs Farm's Perfect Step for trainer Christine Janks. It was the 2,494th career win of Homeister's career.

The 39-year-old native of Hollywood, Florida, began riding in August of 1992 at North Miami's Calder Race Course.