Awarded the victory via disqualification in last summer’s Bowling Green S. (G2), Cross Border earned his repeat score outright in Saturday’s $250,000 renewal at Saratoga. The New York-bred horse-for-the-course extended his local mark to 7-6-0-1 for meet-leading trainer Mike Maker.
Cross Border had not won since his promotion in this race a year ago, but the Three Diamonds Farm colorbearer continued to run well. Second to future Eclipse champion Channel Maker in the Sword Dancer (G1), Cross Border also placed in the Mohawk at Belmont, Buddy Diliberto Memorial at Fair Grounds, and two majors at Gulfstream Park – the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Pan American (G2). The seven-year-old was coming off a near-miss in a Belmont allowance, and the return to the Spa put him back in the winner’s circle.
Well placed early by Luis Saez, who had just guided champion Essential Quality to victory in the Jim Dandy (G2), Cross Border was perched in third behind market leaders Channel Cat and Channel Maker. All three, coincidentally, are by turf champ English Channel.
Channel Cat, the 3.30-1 favorite, showed the way through fractions of :24.75, :49.37, 1:14.52, and 1:38.71 on the good inner turf. The 3.35-1 Channel Maker kept close tabs until the final turn, when Channel Cat spurted away.
Cross Border took off in pursuit, caught the longtime leader, and pulled 1 1/4 lengths clear. The 6.20-1 chance clocked 1 3/8 miles in 2:16.36 and paid $14.40.
Perennial stakes bridesmaid Rockemperor closed for runner-up honors. Shamrocket gained from further back to take third, heading fourth-placer Channel Cat. Next came the slow-starting Red Knight; Moon Over Miami; Channel Maker, who faded in his first start since his early-season Mideast ventures; and Breakpoint.
Cross Border’s jockey and trainer both mentioned his affinity for Saratoga, the scene of his three stakes wins beginning with the 2020 Lubash S.
“He loves it here,” Saez told NYRA publicity. “This is a special horse that I love riding. He always tries hard. Today, he ran huge. It set up perfect with a good pace. When we came to the top of the stretch, he really gave me that kick and he battled. He always wants to give me everything. It all went according to plan.”
“He’s a model of consistency and durability,” Maker said. “Hopefully, we have another couple of years with him. He’s handled everything, especially here.”
Cross Border is nearing the seven-figure threshold with earnings of $948,821 from a 35-10-8-4 line. The dark bay began his career at Woodbine with Robert Tiller, who bought him for a bargain $10,000 as an OBS June two-year-old. He went to his current connections for $100,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale.
Bred by Berkshire Stud and B.D. Gibbs in the Empire State, Cross Border was initially sold for $180,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The ridgling is out of the Empire Maker mare Empress Josephine, a half-sister to Grade 2 hero Private Emblem. Empress Josephine is also a half to multiple stakes vixen Rhum, the dam of Grade 2-winning sprinters Gantry and Central Banker.