In the last two Maker’s 46 Mile races run at Keeneland, the Brian Lynch-trained Heart to Heart ran at or near the lead only to be passed in the late stages to finish second.
Not this time.
Jockey Julien Leparoux took the 7-year-old Ontario-bred bay with the brilliant white heart-shaped forehead patch to the front out of the gate and kept him there to win the 30th running of the Maker’s 46 on the turf at Keeneland in front of a record Friday crowd.
“He deserves to win this race,” said Leparoux, who rode Heart to Heart to each of his second-place finishes here. “He had a couple of tough beats at Keeneland. He’s a nice horse. Everybody loves him.”
Owner Timothy Hamilton couldn’t complain about his horse’s prior Maker’s finishes, but he felt good about their chances in talking with Lynch last night and even better holding the custom glass art trophy designed by Danville artist Stephen Rolfe Powell.
“You just have to really respect the horse and really respect Brian Lynch,” Hamilton said. “I think he’s managed this horse so properly and so good, and that’s why we’re still around and have this opportunity.”
The Maker’s 46 is the second Grade 1 stakes win for Heart to Heart, who is now an 11-time graded stakes winner over his career. He won the Grade 1 Gulf Stream Park Stakes in his last outing.
“Brian and I went out last night for supper, we talked and Brian told me ‘Terry, this horse has never been so good.’”
Hamilton said they worried about Om’s pace, but Irad Ortiz could only manage to pull Om within a neck as they rounded the final turn. Heart to Heart exited the turn ahead by a length and won by 1¾ lengths in 1:34.71 on the firm turf.
“He just never stops giving,” Lynch said. “Julien (Leparoux) is just a great fit with him. I think that was probably one of his best performances here today. You always worry about the Keeneland stretch; it’s so long. We’re always looking for the wire before it gets there. But today, when he broke clear, I thought someone’s going to have to burst out of the pack to get him. He was on his game.
“We loved the way he trained coming into it, and we really felt like he was the best we’ve had him. He certainly showed it today.”
Heart to Heart came in as the 2-1 morning line favorite and went off as first choice at 3-1. He paid $8.40, $4.40 and $3.20. Second choice Ballagh Rocks (7-2) pulled away from a four-wide battle for second and paid $5 and $3.80. Forge (9-1) overtook Om for third and paid $5.40. The exacta paid $38.80. The trifecta brought $246.80.
Heart to Heart’s win is also a victory for Thoroughbred Charities of America. Owners Terry and Toby Hamilton pledged a portion of Saturday’s earnings to the TCA program.
Huge turnout and traffic: Keeneland had a robust crowd of 28,307 on a sunny, breezy Friday afternoon. Fans had to deal with more than the usual traffic backup, however.
Pothole repair on the outer loop on New Circle Road that had been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. helped make for a little bit longer slog in to the track for some.
Betting delay: There was an extended “tote delay” after the fifth race, leaving it unofficial until well past the scheduled post time for the sixth.
The sixth race, won by 9-2 third choice Lido and which went off at 3:53 p.m., wasn’t declared official until 4:33 p.m. due to a technical error, Keeneland said. The seventh race, originally scheduled for 4:24 p.m., went off at 4:59. The rest of the day’s card went off about 35 minutes of off its scheduled times.
Long shot in 7th: The extra time for the delay didn’t bother the longest shot to come in on the day as Home Base, at 32-1 odds and with Michael Tomlinson up, took the 7-furlong Marydel maiden. The Ontario-bred 3-year-old son of Street Sense paid $66.20, $26 and $12.60. With second-place Own Agenda at 3-1, the exacta paid $378.20, and with 7-1 Rugbyman in third, the trifecta paid $2,704.80, all the highest for each bet on the day.
Derby prep? Saturday’s Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes offers a last-gasp chance for My Boy Jack to earn entry into the Kentucky Derby as one of the final two prep races in the series.
The Kent Desormeaux-trained colt has 32 “Road to the Derby” points, likely putting him just outside qualification for the 20-horse field.
But a win in the Lexington even with its smaller points payout of 20 points to the winner, would put My Boy Jack in good stead. And the 10 points available for coming in second could be just enough for him to squeak in. Other horses in the Lexington could be pointed at other Triple Crown races with a good finish here.
The only other Derby prep on the day is the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. With that, the field for the Run for the Roses will come into full view. The Arkansas Derby offers points, first to fourth, on a 100-40-20-10 breakdown and could bolster several résumés.
Dream Baby Dream, Solomini and Combatant need to hit the board in the Arkansas to have a shot at the Derby while Quip, who scratched from last week’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, and Magnum Moon will be looking to turn in convincing performances to enter the conversation as viable contenders for the Derby crown.