For the moment, the only thing on jockey Channing Hill's mind is winning the $75,000 Bosselman
"Pump and Pantry"-Gus Fonner Stakes. It's a childhood dream of his which could come to fruition
on Saturday as he rides the morning line 2-1 favorite, Joy Boy, in Fonner Park's premiere event, contested
at a mile and a 1/16th.
A week from today, Hill's attention switches to the Grade I, $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks, as he climbs aboard Aurelias Belle at fabled Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, trained by father-in-law Wayne Catalano.
For comparison's sake, it sounds like chicken feed versus chicken salad; but coming home, following a
six year absence on the Nebraska racing circuit, "just sounded like the right thing to do," said Hill, as
he spoke during a phone conversation from his home outside of Chicago.
It's also part of Hill's master plan, of sorts, as he finds himself in the midst of a "comeback journey"
in the vigorous circles of thoroughbred horse racing-at the ripe old age of 26.
"I passed up several stake races this weekend both here at Hawthorne and down at Churchill because
coming full circle in my riding career will be such a great experience," added Hill. "I feel like a little kid
"I've known so many riders who've forgotten where they came from. Most have never been heard
from again. It's time I reconnect with some of the most important people in my life. I know where my
Channing Hill was born in 1987, right here in Grand Island. He's the son of Alan Hill, a retired jockey
who traveled the midwest, riding horses for nearly 40 years. He literally grew up on the backside of Fonner,
State Fair Park in Lincoln, and Ag Park in Columbus.
Upon graduation at Columbus High School, the younger Hill hit the bigtime, spending his apprentice
years on the New York racing circuit, earning millions of dollars at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga. The
money was coming in so fast he owned two homes; one on Long Island, the other in Saratoga Springs,
In 2008, Hill ranked 32nd out of 1200 North American riders, as his mounts piled up $6.1 million
in purses. All this and he was barely 21 years of age.
Suddenly, the phone stopped ringing.
In an interview done by DanonymousRacing.com in June of 2013, Hill admitted all the rapid
success had changed his focus. Poor judgment led to a miserable experience when he moved his tack
to Southern California and "The Great Race Place"-Santa Anita. Eventually, he'd turn to excessive
Rock bottom came in 2012 when Hill's win total tumbled to just 30-barely getting 300 rides for the
entire year. Plus, he was hampered by a broken ankle which put him on the shelf for several months.
Enter the Catalano family.
Hill struck up a relationship with Shelbi Catalano, the only daughter of one of racing's most successful
horsemen. And the rest is history.
The two were united in marriage less than a year ago and are expecting their first child-a son-in three weeks.
Okay. Maybe there's more on Channing's mind than just this weekend's Bosselman, but he seriously
can't wait to get back to where this journey all started.
"Joy Boy fits my arsenal extremely well," points out Hill. "He's a very, very good horse-a professional-
with a good turn of foot."
Ironically, the owner of Joy Boy, Kevin Hulse, also calls Grand Island home.
Another reason for Channing Hill's quest to satisfy those childhood dreams.