Heart to Heart stays perfect on Churchill turf in River City
Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart is in love with the Churchill Downs turf. With his front-running victory in Thursday’s $100,000 River City H. (G3), the Brian Lynch trainee extended his recover to a perfect three-for-three over the Matt Winn course.
All three of those wins have come in graded stakes. During his sophomore campaign in 2014, the English Channel colt wired both the Jefferson Cup (G3) and the Commonwealth Turf (G3), propelling himself to a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion three-year-old male. Heart to Heart is effective elsewhere too, as his coups in last year’s Better Talk Now at Saratoga and the August 2 Oceanport (G3) at Monmouth attest, but he’s really in his element here.
Dispatched as the 8-5 second choice, Heart to Heart easily grabbed the early lead through an opening quarter in :24.43 on the good turf. Jockey Julien Leparoux rationed out his speed through splits of :48.86 and 1:13.55, and Heart to Heart began to pull away turning for home. Although Thatcher Street gave game chase down the stretch, he could not get close enough to pose a serious threat. Heart to Heart continued to hold sway, reaching the mile in 1:38.76 and completing nine furlongs in 1:52.16. Two lengths clear at the wire, the 121-pound starting highweight returned $5.20 to win.
Thatcher Street, who was receiving six pounds, had three lengths to spare over the late-running Perfect Title. Early stalker Dac faded to fourth. Messi, the 4-5 favorite, didn’t factor when finishing fifth of eight. Are You Kidding Me, who would have ranked as the highweight at 123 pounds, was scratched.
Heart to Heart’s resume reads 18-7-2-2, $516,780. In addition to his five stakes victories, the Ontario-bred bay missed in a photo in the 2013 Vandal, placed third in the 2014 Toronto Cup, and finished second in the May 16 Red Bank (G3) in his seasonal reappearance. He was coming off an uncharacteristic 10th in the October 3 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
Quotes from Churchill Downs
Trainer Brian Lynch on Heart to Heart (via telephone): “He’s a tough little bugger when they leave him alone on the lead. This was a nice little win coming back against older horses this time. The big question mark was could he get the mile-and-an-eighth and he did. We’ve been patient with him all year; he seems to like running fresh. He seems to like the track at Churchill so we’ll point to some of the races there in the summer. For the winter, we’ll take him down to Palm Meadows and more or less target races like the Woodford Reserve [Turf Classic].”
Jockey Julien Leparoux on Heart to Heart: “I knew that I was the only speed and he likes to run alone on the lead anyway so we broke well and got him to relax on the lead and he did. I knew he’d run his race. I was just hoping he would keep his lead the whole way through and he did. He’s the same horse he was last year. If you look at him he’s very tiny but he has a big heart. His name is perfect for him. As long as you don’t fight with him and let him do his thing, he always runs his race.”
Jockey John Velazquez on Messi, fifth as the 4-5 favorite: “He did not get his feet out of the ground all right. He could not get them out of it, for whatever reason. It was a little too soft for him.”
Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.