November 29, 2023

Breeders’ Cup candidate Warm Heart withstands Free Wind in WAYI Yorkshire Oaks

Warm Heart (inside) keeps her head in front of Free Wind in the Yorkshire Oaks (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders' Cup)

A subpar fifth behind favored stablemate Savethelastdance in the Irish Oaks (G1) in a Curragh bog, Coolmore homebred Warm Heart turned the tables on much quicker ground in Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks (G1). The Aidan O’Brien trainee just held older foe Free Wind by a head, with Savethelastdance another 2 1/4 lengths back in third, in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).

Warm Heart had demonstrated her affinity for good-to-firm conditions in the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot two starts back. But she was now meeting elders for the first time at York, in addition to renewing rivalry with Savethelastdance and Irish Oaks runner-up Bluestocking. Hence Galileo filly ended up going off at a generous price and paid $24.40 stateside.

Jockey James Doyle made the most of his opportunity to pick up a mount for Ballydoyle, working out the ideal trip. Warm Heart settled a few lengths off the pace set by Savethelastdance, who went straight to the front and tried to play to her strength of stamina. Although the favorite did stay on doggedly down the straight, she was ultimately beaten for finishing speed over the faster course.

Warm Heart breezed alongside Savethelastdance and outkicked her, only to have Free Wind arrive on the scene. That five-year-old mare had uncorked a whirlwind rally to win her only prior start at York, the 18 Middleton (G2), and she threatened to duplicate the feat. But Warm Heart proved a tougher opponent to pass. Bravely digging in, she kept her head in front in a brisk 2:25.86 for 1 1/2 miles.

Free Wind’s rider, Frankie Dettori, believed that her brief hold-up in traffic was costly. The John and Thady Gosden veteran was stuck behind Warm Heart when the winner made her move, and seeing daylight sooner would have helped. That said, Free Wind was spotting nine pounds to a high-class sophomore with a fine turn of foot.

Savethelastdance could be poised for a step up in trip versus colts in the St Leger (G1), or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), where the going would likely be more congenial. Bluestocking checked in fourth, another preferring a bit more give in the ground, according to trainer Ralph Beckett. Next came Sea Silk Road, Stay Alert, Novakai, Poptronic, Al Husn, and Rosscarbery.

Campaigned by the Coolmore partners and Westerberg, Warm Heart has compiled a 7-4-1-0 line. The bay took three starts to break her maiden, but she’s been on a steep upward curve since checking that box at Leopardstown May 7. Warm Heart wheeled back for the May 20 Fillies’ Trial at Newbury and withstood Bluestocking by a head. She made it a hat trick in the Ribblesdale, drawing off by 2 1/2 lengths and leaving Bluestocking back in a troubled third. The Yorkshire Oaks gives Warm Heart a 2-1 edge in her head-to-head match-ups with Bluestocking.

Warm Heart’s 2-for-2 record at 1 1/4 miles, from her maiden and listed scores, and preference for firm ground stamp her as a natural candidate for the Filly & Mare Turf. O’Brien’s postrace comments suggest that she’ll use her free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup. Plans are fluid about whether she’ll have a race in between, or go fresh to Santa Anita.

Out of multiple Australian Group 1-winning sprinter Sea Siren, by Fastnet Rock, Warm Heart is a full sister to Group 3-placed Celestial Object; ill-fated Arbutus, a promising debut winner who sadly never had the chance to fulfill his potential; and current juvenile Bremen, who broke his maiden at Killarney July 17 for Donnacha O’Brien.