For Immediate Release, May 04, 2017
Steve Anderson's Article -- Channing Hill goes to Derby
Big dreams can even come true in horse racing.
But it's the one motivating factor that gets most of us up every morning just to give it a go one more time.
Many in this business spend a lifetime looking for the "big horse", trying to win that elusive stake or just getting that "prized baby" to the track to run one race. And if you're fortunate, maybe you might win?
For jockey Channing Hill, it took a good 20 years to satisfy that one itch he developed while racing dirt bikes on the backside of Fonner Park against his childhood buddies, Dylan Williams and Mikey Luark.
They all shared the same vision of being on the back of a thoroughbred race horse one day. They all succeeded in varying degrees.
Luark won the 2016 Bosselman-Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes onboard Sweet Stuff. He's still riding winners on the Nebraska circuit to this day.
Williams was forced into early retirement because he physically got too big; yet, he's kept his hand in the game-with moderate success-down in New Mexico where his first-trained quarter-horse won a race at Sunland Park just two weeks ago. Saddle bronc riding at the rodeo is another sidelight of his.
For Hill, he's taken it to the highest level.
Arguably, his two biggest days as a professional race rider will come over the next 48 hours.
Late Friday afternoon, at Churchill Downs in Lousiville, Ky. Channing Hill will climb aboard one of the favorites in the $1 million dollar Kentucky Oaks, Farrell, who's a three-year-old filly coming off four consecutive wins, including three Grade II Stakes victories. Farrell is trained by Hill's father-in-law, Wayne Catalano.
On Saturday, Hill gets his first opportunity (in a 14-year career) at riding in the $2.4 million dollar Kentucky Derby on a horse called Fast And Accurate.
Both races are Grade I events.
"I know I said as a kid that riding in the Derby was my ultimate goal-that's every rider's dream," said Hill.
"But now that I'm in it, my goal is to win it, not to just take part. I think we've got a good shot."
"I know Fast And Accurate is 50 to 1, but he breezed really good coming into this race and rain is in the forecast; so, a sealed, sloppy track would only help him," added Hill.
The connections of Fast And Accurate certainly come into the 143rd "Run for the Roses" with serious intentions, having to pay a $200,000 supplement just to make their horse eligible for the race. This is a Pennsylvania-bred three-year-old colt; a gray, that's the son of Hansen, out of It's Heidi's Dance.
Fast And Accurate is owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen, Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable. One of the investors is Olympic skier Bode Miller, and the trainer is Michael Maker.
Hill, 29, is not the first Nebraska-born jockey to ever ride in The Derby.
That honor belongs to Irving Anderson, the father of Fonner Park Assistant Racing Secretary Wayne Anderson, who rode for Calumet Farms back in the late 1930's and early 40's. The Hoskins, Nebraska native actually finished third aboard Market Wise in 1941, running behind Triple Crown Champion, Whirlaway.
"I know how special it is to participate in the biggest event in our sport and how fortunate I am to be in this spot," said Hill.
"Obviously, I would've never made it to this point in my life if it wasn't for the people back home in Nebraska. All those folks who helped me....but had no reason to, they just did. I've carried that constitution around ever since, of being a good person, and couldn't have asked for a better place to start."