Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart had found heartbreak in his past trips for Keeneland’s marquee mile races, but his persistence paid off in Friday’s $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1). Runner-up in the past two editions, the 3-1 favorite was not for catching this time as he drew off by a convincing 1 3/4 lengths.
Trainer Brian Lynch said afterward that the seven-year-old son of English Channel has never been better, or stronger. That maturity explains how the longtime Grade 1 bridesmaid has now won two in a row, following his breakthrough in the February 10 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1).
Once Heart to Heart took up his customary front-running role through an opening quarter in :24.07, and California speedster Om sat deferentially on his flank, the race was shaping up to his satisfaction. Regular rider Julien Leparoux kept his pace evenly measured as he clicked off fractions of :47.90 and 1:11.77. Then came the sharp acceleration that left them flat-footed. Heart to Heart was simply too fast as he spurted away down the lane and completed the firm-turf mile in 1:34.71.
The rest of the field received five pounds from the victorious 123-pound highweight, but couldn’t land a blow. Ballagh Rocks, always prominent on the rail, held second by a half-length from his Bill Mott stablemate Forge, who fared best of the closers in a blanket finish for third. Om was a nose away in fourth, the same margin ahead of the one-paced Frostmourne. Next came Mr. Misunderstood, Next Shares, Tower of Texas and Hogy, who probably preferred to be held up further back going this trip. Longshot Nileator was scratched.
Heart to Heart, Canada’s champion three-year-old male of 2014, has amassed $1,917,290 in earnings from a record of 35-15-5-3. The Ontario-bred has won or placed in a total of 20 stakes, with his previous highlights including a victory in last summer’s Bernard Baruch (G2). Aside from his Maker’s 46 seconds to Miss Temple City (2016) and American Patriot (2017), he’s also placed in last year’s Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita and the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) back at Keeneland.
Bred by Red Hawk Ranch, Heart to Heart is out of the winning Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question. His fourth dam is Fair Astronomer, Ireland’s champion two-year-old filly of 1962.
Quotes from Keeneland
Trainer Brian Lynch: “He just never stops giving. 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.”
On Heart to Heart’s improving with age: “I just think maturity with racing. He’s just become a much stronger horse. He’s not a very big horse, but this year he’s put on an enormous amount of weight, and he’s just become that much bigger and stronger. He’s got a little more stamina to him, and we’re seeing it in his races.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux: “He deserves to win this race. He had a couple of tough beats at Keeneland. He’s a nice horse; everybody loves him. He’s a cool horse to be around. Last time, he got his first Grade 1 (win in the Gulfstream Park Turf, which was very special, but to get a Grade 1 at Keeneland is even more special.”
Jockey Luis Saez on runner-up Ballagh Rocks: “The pace was a little slow in front. I thought there would be more speed in front. I was following the winner early and I did not want to put pressure on him so I had to wait. When we turned into the stretch, my horse responded but the winner was taking off. I had a clear run, but the winner was already gone.”
Joel Rosario, who rode Forge in third: “I had a perfect trip. He broke well. (Trainer) Bill (Mott) told me he wanted me to make one run. He handled everything fine. When that horse (Heart to Heart) gets to the lead, he’s tough to beat. (Heart to Heart) ran a monster race – that was a very fast time. I thought for a second we were maybe going to get up for second – he was trying very hard, but the one on the inside (Ballagh Rocks) was tough too. But he ran well, he did everything I asked him to do.”
Jockey Flavien Prat on Om’s fourth-place effort: “He broke well and was strong. The first part of the race, he relaxed and I thought I’d be able to sit off the pace. Then down the backside he started getting aggressive. Turning for home, I didn’t feel like I had very much (horse) but then by the eighth pole, he re-engaged. He ran a good fourth.”