Heart to Heart, Sandiva capitalize with early speed on Gulfstream turf

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

January 9th, 2016

Saturday’s graded action on the Gulfstream Park turf underscored the advantage held by a classy horse with early speed and soft fractions. Heart to Heart was once again uncatchable after getting away with a cozy lead in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2). Sandiva had company early in the $150,000 Marshua’s River (G3), but the pace was only steady, and the sit-and-sprint played to her strengths.

Heart to Heart, Canada’s champion 3-year-old male of 2014, has now won six stakes, all in wire-to-wire fashion. Owned by Terry Hamilton and trained by Brian Lynch, the son of English Channel was coming off a victory in the November 26 River City (G3) at Churchill Downs.

The 3-1 second choice here, Heart to Heart had no difficulty crossing over from the far outside post 9. The race was virtually over as he settled into rhythm entering the clubhouse turn, with no pace pressure. Regular rider Julien Leparoux kept him under wraps through comfortable splits of :24.28, :48.38 and 1:11.90. Turned loose down the lane, Heart to Heart opened up by an insurmountable 2 1/2 lengths. Lukes Alley, in his slipstream most of the way, peeled out to cut the deficit to a half-length at the wire. But Heart to Heart already had the race in safe keeping, covering 1 1/16 firm-turf miles in 1:41.71.

All Included edged 2-1 favorite Lochte and Takeover Target for third. Takeover Target ran better than the result implies, for he was buried behind horses, had to check at the eighth-pole, and still managed to make up ground during the hottest part of the race. Needless to say, mark him down for next time.

I was expecting War Correspondent to do better than fold to seventh. Granted, he was resuming from a nine-month absence, but he’s fired fresh before, and had the forwardly placed trip that should have helped. Perhaps the War Front horse was just a touch too keen while chasing wide. Heart to Heart’s nearest pursuer cornering for home, War Correspondent came up empty inside the final furlong. Hopefully he’ll move forward in his second start off the bench for Christophe Clement.

Heart to Heart has now bankrolled $635,820 from his 19-8-2-2 line. Victorious in the 2014 Jefferson Cup (G3), Commonwealth Turf (G3) and Better Talk Now during his Sovereign Award campaign, the bay annexed last year’s Oceanport (G3) in addition to the River City. He sports a stakes placing each term – second in a photo for the 2013 Vandal, third in the 2014 Toronto Cup, and a close runner-up in his 2015 reappearance in the Red Bank (G3).

In the Marshua’s River, Sandiva kicked off a graded double for trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano, and Al Shaqab Racing, presaging Mshawish’s success in the Hal’s Hope (G3) on dirt.

Sandiva was dispatched as the even-money favorite off her comeback third in the November 21 My Charmer (G3) at Gulfstream Park West. Since the Irish-bred acted up in the paddock prior to that effort, Pletcher prescribed schooling sessions. Her paddock practice, combined with a natural progression second time out, helped Sandiva return to peak form on Saturday.

Breaking alertly from the rail, Sandiva had her mind on the game every step of the way, and vied for the early lead. Indeed, Castellano said that he was surprised that she was on the front end. But the two-time defending Eclipse Award champion jockey added that’s why you have to call audibles, to adjust to circumstances as the race unfolds.

Although into the bit, Sandiva was not rank as she matched strides with Quiet Kitten through an opening quarter in :23.95. Her rival grabbed a slim lead, with Devine Aida moving up to make it a trio at the half in :48.19, but Sandiva was traveling conspicuously well. Easily re-asserting through six furlongs in 1:12.11, Sandiva forged clear entering the stretch and held sway by 1 1/2 lengths. The Footstepsinthesand mare completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.04, her last sixteenth in a snappy :6.06.

The 16-1 A Little Bit Sassy turned in a strong effort to rally for second, considering the race shape was all against her. Eighth early, nearly five lengths off the sedate tempo, the Michael Matz trainee did well to outperform her odds. The respective third and fifth, Tuttipaesi and Partisan Politics, were likewise disadvantaged by their early positions.

Sandiva’s sixth career stakes victory improved her record to 18-7-2-2, $569,440. Originally trained by Richard Fahey in England, she landed the 2013 Naas Juvenile Fillies Sprint and Prix du Calvados (G3), and finished second in the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot. The chestnut opened 2014 with a victory over Euro Charline in the Nell Gwyn (G3), but wound up unplaced in both the 1000 Guineas (G1) and Coronation (G1). She came stateside that summer and later scored her U.S. breakthrough in the Tropical Park Oaks over this course. Sandiva continued to show her fondness for the Gulfstream sod when adding last February’s Suwannee River (G3) and just missing in the Honey Fox (G2). No match for certain divisional champion Tepin in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) (third) and Just a Game (G1) (fifth), she was spelled until the aforementioned My Charmer.

Photos courtesy Adam Coglianese Photography: Heart to Heart (top) by Leslie Martin, Sandiva by Kenny Martin.