Best of 2023: Channel Maker and Red Knight
Dec 27, 2023
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Chelsea Durand Photo

Best of 2023: Channel Maker and Red Knight

by Mary Eddy

Just four live race days remain in 2023 to complete a remarkable year of racing action on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit. To celebrate the season, the NYRA Press Office checked in with a selection of trainers, owners, jockeys and racing personalities to share their reflections on the memorable year.

This year, two veteran turf stars called it a career at 9-years-old after a combined 22 wins and over $5 million in earnings. Multiple graded stakes-winners Channel Maker and Red Knight have each found their permanent home at Old Friends Equine in Georgetown, K.Y., a 501(c)(3) non-profit accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) that provides thoroughbreds with lifelong care in their retirement.

Channel Maker, a son of English Channel, was a fan favorite during his eight seasons of racing that began in 2016 in his native Ontario with trainer Daniel Vella. In 2017, he moved to the barn of Hall of Famer Bill Mott and earned the Sovereign Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Colt. He moved to the states in September of that year, where he raced each year until his retirement in October after Grade 1 wins in Belmont Park’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic [2018, 2020] and Man o’ War [2019], and Saratoga Race Course’s Sword Dancer [2020].

Campaigned by Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber, R.A. Hill Stable and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, he was named the Champion Turf Male in 2020 and retired with a record of 56-10-6-5 and earnings just shy of $4 million.

Red Knight, a New York homebred for Trinity Farm, also raced for Mott for his first five seasons of racing before moving to the barn of Mike Maker last July. The son of Pure Prize won three stakes for Mott, including the Grade 3 Sycamore, before notching three more graded scores for Maker, including the Grade 1 Man o’ War this year when becoming just the fifth horse aged 8 or older to win a Grade 1 flat race on the NYRA circuit since 1976, according to Equibase. He also retired in October with a record of 38-12-9-2 and total purse earnings of $1,886,338.

While Red Knight and Channel Maker were rivals on eight occasions on the racetrack, the two have now become pasture-mates at Old Friends, where they will serve as ambassadors for the responsible retirement of racehorses to the upwards of 20,000 visitors the farm receives each year.

Michael Blowen, Founder and President of Old Friends, shared his enthusiasm in welcoming the two beloved geldings to a herd of around 300 retired thoroughbreds, which span several properties in Kentucky and at Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division in Greenfield Center, N.Y.

Q: How have Channel Maker and Red Knight settled into their retirement?

“They’re great, running around and playing with each other. They eat together, they walk together and they were just rearing up and playing together. They go in the shed together. It’s absolutely incredible.”

Q: What are their personalities like, and how did their pairing come to be?

“They’re exactly the same. They look the same, and their personalities are exactly the same. In their own ways, they’re confident, they love playing, and they’re both really, really smart. It’s interesting they spent their whole lives being competitors, and once they realize they don’t have to compete anymore, everything changes.

“Red Knight was out in the front paddock here, and I didn’t say anything to Antonio [Marin, stallion and horse manager] about them. I don’t like to tell him where they should go, and I just want him to make a decision based on the horses. I asked him one day, ‘When do you think Channel Maker will be ready to go out?’ He said, ‘I’m putting him out tomorrow with Red Knight.’ They were like long lost brothers.”

Q: What is the transition process like for horses as they adjust to life away from the racetrack?

“Antonio and I discuss everything, but he decides everything. Every horse is different. The first thing we do is keep them in a stall and have the vet come and look at them. Then, we move them to a stall with runouts, and they can decide if they want to go in or go out. That can take anywhere from an hour to a week. Then, we start to think about their personality and who they will fit with. They’re really intelligent and they all like different things. These horses have been told what to do their whole lives, so now they’re going to tell us what to do. Our job is to find out what they want and to comply.”

Q: What are the hours that fans can visit for a tour and meet Channel Maker, Red Knight, and dozens of other famous racehorses?

“We’re just offering private tours right now, and visitors can call the office to schedule a tour. We take a break until the end of February. Once we open fully again, we offer three tours a day. It’s been great and I really enjoy that part of it.”

Q: How does the addition of these two recognizable horses help promote Old Friends’ message of responsible aftercare?

“It’s fabulous. These two horses are proof that horses who are well taken care of can have long, successful careers, and the longer they’re racing, the more fans they have. We sell donation shares of $100 each where you get a picture of the horse and a certificate. These two horses have only been here a short time, and we’ve already sold into the double figures.

“We’re proving these horses have economic and sentimental value long after their racing careers, because they have fans.”


To learn more about Old Friends, visit

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