Serve the King prevails in the Grade 2 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 20, 2021. NYRA/Rob Mauhar photo.

Serve the King Dishes Out Victory in Red Smith

Edited Press Release

Peter Brant’s Serve the King (GB), under a perfect ride by meet-leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., collared Channel Cat in the final jumps to capture the Grade 2, $200,000 Red Smith Stakes, an 11-furlong inner turf test for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack on Nov. 20.

Trained by four-time Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, the 5-year-old son of Kingman (GB) entered from a solid runner-up effort to stablemate Rockemperor (IRE) in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont Park.

Channel Cat, winner of the Grade 1 Man o’ War in May at Belmont, added blinkers and was sent to the front by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, marking off splits of :24.96, :50.02 and 1:15.59 over the firm going while being tracked by No Word.

Serve the King saved ground down the backstretch in fifth position to the inside of Price Talk as Channel Cat continued to dictate terms into the final turn while pestered by No Word. Ortiz, Jr. angled Serve the King six-wide for the stretch run and finished with a flourish to secure a neck win over a game and determined Channel Cat in a final time of 2:16.60. 

Soldier Rising (GB), who had saved ground from the back of the pack under Jose Ortiz, closed wide down the lane to complete the trifecta a neck in arrears of Channel Cat.

Ortiz, Jr., who leads the Big A fall meet with 13 wins, said he felt confident throughout.

“I had a really good trip. He broke sharp and was forwardly-placed,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He put me in a good position, so I saved all the ground for the whole race. At the half-mile, I started moving and he responded really well. I was able to tip him out and when he hit the clear, he was running.”

Brown said he was pleased with the effort from Serve the King, who had earned a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his Joe Hirsch effort.

“His numbers are pretty good, especially for a distance horse. He keeps getting faster and he’s a progressive horse,” Brown said. “He had every right to not get there today given the way the race unfolded and he showed a lot of determination to get up in time.”

Serve the King, who was purchased from Book 1 at the 2017 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, launched his current campaign with fourth-place efforts at Monmouth Park in the Grade 3 Monmouth in June and the Grade 1 United Nations in July. He entered the Joe Hirsch from a first career stakes win in the restricted Johns Call, traveling 1 5/8-miles over firm going in August at Saratoga Race Course.

Brown credited his team for the development of the lightly-raced 5-year-old.

“A lot of credit goes to my Monmouth crew, who really did a good job helping this horse,” Brown said. “As a younger horse, he was a little bit quirky and wouldn’t want to train all the time and for whatever reason down there he has a comfortable situation and would train on. That’s why he spent a lot of his time down there.

“After the Hirsch, we left him (at Belmont Park) and he picked right up and has been cooperative and he’s fine now,” Brown added. “My crew here did a great job. It was a real team effort from different divisions to keep this guy on track.”

Velazquez was full of praise for the Jack Sisterson-trained Channel Cat, who rebounded impressively from a sixth-place finish in the Turf Cup in September at Kentucky Downs.

“He’s a game horse. It’s nice to get these horses that run their eyeballs out. We just got beat by the wire, but that’s part of racing,” Velazquez said. “They came to me at the quarter-pole and I had to use him a little sooner than I wanted to. I just got caught right at the end.”

Bred in Great Britain by Normandie Stud, Serve the King banked $110,000 in victory while improving his record to 11-5-2-1. He returned $6.10 for a $2 win ticket as the lukewarm 2-1 mutuel favorite.