Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, September 08, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/08/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Jockey Channing Hill Readies to Explore New Worlds; Apprentice Alejandro Contreras Bookends Friday's Program

At 25 years of age, jockey Channing Hill is one of the fastest rising stars in the business. He's ridden on the major east coast circuits of New York and Maryland and punctuated his time on those circuits with a win at Saratoga in the Grade I Forego Handicap and in Maryland with victories in the Grade I Barbara Fritchie and Grade III Black-Eyed Susan.

"You know, such a big part of the business is luck," said the humble Hill earlier this summer with the understated tone of a Nebraska native. "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."

However, although Hill won with his first mount during his first summer riding at Arlington, through no fault of his own his luck suffered a sudden setback when his business was compromised before the season was half over due to the altered plans of others. That unexpected development ended up having something of a domino effect on Hill's own expected riding engagements at Chicago's northwest suburban oval.

"I didn't think it was right for me to leave right after those things happened," Hill said. "I wanted to show people that when things got tough I had the ability to stick it out, and I also thought the idea of leaving (trainer) Danny Peitz in the lurch really stunk. If it hadn't been for Danny and the business he gave me, I would have been swimming uphill all summer. Danny and his wife Sandy are two of the best people I know. There was no way I could run out on commitments like that.

"Fortunately, before I came to Arlington I had listened to some feelers about a chance to ride in the Middle East, and going into the meet here I had left open the possibility to say 'yes' at a later date," said Hill, who was a finalist for the 2005 Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding apprentice jockey and is the son of former jockey Alan Hill.

"I loved it coming here to Arlington, and I'd love to come back here again next year," the younger Hill said between Arlington's races during the first week of September, "but when circumstances turned out the way they did for me this summer, I decided to pursue that other opportunity and it was still there for me."

With that development, following Hill's riding engagements this weekend, the plan was to pack his tack and leave Chicago for a brief period at Belmont Park, then go on to Saudi Arabia and eventually to Dubai when that United Arab Emirates meeting opens in November.

"It's a six-month contract," Hill said. "It's going to give me the opportunity to expand my riding skills, enjoy an excellent financial experience and get the feel of different countries.

"My contract will be up on April 1," Hill concluded, "and hopefully I'll come back for another Arlington meet next year. I loved my time here this year because the people were all so gracious in welcoming me and the management treats the horsemen so well. Coming back to Arlington next summer is most definitely my first option right now."

Apprentice jockey Alejandro Contreras, who will be Arlington's leading bug rider when the local 2012 season comes to an end on September 30, bookended Friday's program with a riding double to move closer to the cusp of a top 10 ranking in the jockey standings.

The 27-year-old native of Ixtepec, Mexico, won the opening race on Friday's twilight race day aboard The Best Is Yet To Come Stable's At the Finish for August trainer of the month Dale Bennett and then came back to the winner's circle after Friday's finale astride Flying I Ranch's Heston for conditioner Charlie Livesay. Heston, a sophomore gelding by Stormin Fever out of Chequered Love, lit up the tote board with a $47 win price.