So much of Heart to Heart’s following has been inspired by the obvious.
The heart-shaped star that emblazons his forehead and sparked his moniker makes the son of English Channel an easy rooting interest for casual fans. If his looks aren’t enough to draw one in, his all-or-nothing, front-running style has hooked its own fan base by putting him in the money in 13 of his 20 career starts.
There is no bigger champion of the 5-year-old horse and his consistent ways than his trainer, Brian Lynch. He calls the veteran runner the barn’s “Rock of Gibraltar,” but would rather be able to refer to him as the stable’s latest Grade I winner.
The next opportunity for Heart to Heart to make that happen comes this Friday. On the strength of three straight graded stakes wins and four victories in his last five starts, the bay horse heads up a field of nine — including stakes-winning filly Miss Temple City — entered for the Grade I, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile over the Keeneland turf.
“This is the race I’ve pointed him towards all year. I’d love to see him get a Grade I beside his name,” Lynch said. “He’s just been the model of consistency. These horses are so good, and you always want them to have a life after they leave our stables. And if he can get a Grade I, he’s got a chance at a career as a stallion somewhere.”
Beginning with his win in the 2014 Grade III Jefferson Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs, Heart to Heart has raced exclusively in graded stakes company his last 10 starts and been able to hone his early speed into a weapon that has been unbeatable when unchallenged.
The last three outings for Terry Hamilton’s runner have demonstrated that much, with Heart to Heart posting gate-to-wire victories in the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill last November and the Grade II Ft. Lauderdale and Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park this season. The only thing that has been his undoing of late is yielding turf, which he ran over when finishing 10th behind stablemate Grand Arch in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland last October.
Hence, the forecast showing clear skies and sun for the rest of the week was a top piece of news in the Lynch shedrow.
“As he’s gotten older, he’s gotten bigger and stronger and I think he’s one of those horses who plays catch me if you can,” Lynch said. “And I’ve always said one of his biggest attributes is he runs the turns. He’s a horse who really runs around the turns and … by the time you straighten up, he’s snuck away on you.”
Unless someone blinks, Heart to Heart is likely to face some heat out of post No. 3 in the form of Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Shining Copper. The gelded son of Aragorn was used as a rabbit for reigning champion turf male, Big Blue Kitten, last season. With Big Blue Kitten sold to Calumet Farm, the Ramseys and trainer Chad Brown are giving Shining Copper a chance at making his front-running style benefit his own cause as he leaves from post No. 7.
In his seasonal debut, Shining Copper was a neck away from getting his due as he fell just short of Lukes Alley in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 6.
With Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and champion turf female Tepin slated to run in Saturday’s Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes rather than the Maker’s 46 as originally targeted, another young lady will try and show up her male counterparts. Miss Temple City, second in both the Grade III Appalachian and Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last year, makes her 4-year-old seasonal bow in Friday’s race as trainer Graham Motion would rather take on the boys than tackle the girl who has already beaten most of them.
“The more I got to looking at the race, the more I thought that with the weight allowance and such … it just seemed like it made sense,” Motion said. “I’m really thrilled with how my filly is doing and Tepin has already beaten these boys. And this is a way to avoid running against her.
“The good thing is (Shining Copper and Heart to Heart) will ensure a good pace and that will help my filly to settle. My filly looks like a colt anyway and she works against colts.”
Fellowship transferred to Casse
Fellowship, the third place finisher in the Grade II Holy Bull, Grade II Fountain of Youth and Grade I Florida Derby, has been transferred to the barn of trainer Mark Casse and was en route to Kentucky on Tuesday to begin preparations for the Kentucky Derby.
Casse confirmed the move to the Herald-Leader and said that the son of Awesome of Course was still owned by Jacks or Better Farm. Fellowship had been trained by Stanley Gold, who recently parted ways with the owners.
Fellowship gives the Casse barn a Kentucky Derby contender in a year when they have seen some of their top 3-year-old hopefuls run themselves out of contention. Multiple graded stakes winner Airoforce is slated to return to the grass in Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs on May 7 after finishing off the board in the Grade II Risen Star and Grade III Spiral Stakes. Conquest Big E might also try the turf next following his disappointing efforts in the Grade II Holy Bull and Grade III Gotham Stakes.
Maker’s 46 Mile
Post time: 5:30 p.m.
For: 4-year-olds and up
Purse: $300,000 (Grade I)
Distance: 1 mile on turf