(Heart to Heart winning the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
While proving himself to be a most reliable wagering interest in graded-stakes competition, Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart has won the hearts of racing fans the past several years.
The 8-year-old son of English Channel will be the object of his fans’ affections at Gulfstream Park Saturday, when the enduring turf star is slated to take on six rivals in the $100,000 Tropical Park Turf (G1).
“He has a big fan following. He’s a frontrunner; he’s bold; he gets out there. People get a lot of run for their money. Over the years, he’s certainly developed a big fan base. We’re so lucky to have him in our barn. He’s big been a big part of our success,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “He keeps showing up on big days. The way he’s training, being around him for as long as I have, I’d say he’s sitting on a big race.”
The Tropical Park Turf, a mile stakes on turf for 4-year-olds and up, will co-headline Saturday’s 12-race program (11:45 a.m. first-race post time) with the $150,000 Marshua’s River (G3), a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for older fillies and mares.
Heart to Heart has enjoyed considerable success over Gulfstream’s turf course during the past three Championship Meets, capturing the Fort Lauderdale (G2) and Canadian Turf (G3) in 2016, the El Prado and Canadian Turf in 2017, and scoring his first career Grade 1 success in the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) in 2018.
“He loves this strip here. We’re looking forward to starting his year off here,” Lynch said.
Heart to Heart, though, is hardly a one-track pony.
Since his winning debut at Woodbine July 13, 2013, Heart to Heart has won at seven tracks while capturing stakes at five of them. After taking until his 7-year-old campaign to win a Grade 1 stakes, it didn’t take him long to win his second top-level stakes. Heart to Heart went back-to-back, scoring a triumph in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland two months after his breakthrough in the Gulfstream Turf.
The turf veteran with a distinctive heart-shaped blaze came within a neck of going back-to-back-to-back in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. He chased the pace before taking the lead in the stretch, only to just fall short of holding off the late bid by Hunt.
“It was a bloody tearjerker to see him get beat by a head bob at Santa Anita in a thrilling race. The speed duel was incredible and for him to hold on like he did was incredible. He got beat by a head bob or he would have had three Grade 1s in a row,” Lynch said.
Heart to Heart, who tailed off in his final two starts of 2018 against Grade 1 company, will make his return from a three-month layoff in the Tropical Turf.
“He’s back now and he seems to be doing as good as he ever has, so we’re really excited about running him,” Lynch said.
Julien Leparoux, who was aboard Heart to Heart for his back-to-back Grade 1s, has the return mount Saturday.
Larry Pratt and Dave Alden’s Doctor Mounty, a graded stakes-winning son of Street Sense, will seek to rebound from an off-the-board finish in the Dec. 16 Fort Lauderdale (G2) after breaking from the No. 12 post. Two starts earlier, the Shug McGaughey-trained 6-year-old earned graded-stakes credentials with a game triumph in the Baltimore Washington Turf Cup (G3) at Laurel Park. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the call.
Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Mr. Freeze, a graded-stakes winner on dirt, has been entered to make his debut on turf in the mile Tropical Turf. The Dale Romans-trained son of To Honor and Serve won his first two starts in Kentucky last year before finishing second in the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows and romping to a five-length triumph in the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3). Robby Albarado has the return mount aboard the 4-year-old colt who hasn’t run since an off-the-board finish in the Sept. 22 Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx.
Robert S. Evan’s White Flag, a grade stakes-placed multiple-stakes winner trained by Christophe Clement; Jim and Susan Hill’s Holiday Stone, a graded stakes-placed son of Harlan’s Holiday who has won one of two starts over the Gulfstream turf course; Three Diamonds Farm’s Vici, a graded stakes-place turf veteran with more than $350,000 in earnings; and Your Only Man, who has finished second in two starts during the Championship Meet for Mitchell Goldberg, Frank Catapano, Mary Beth Reis, and Gary Reis; round out the field. Daniel Hurtak’s Conquest Big E is a main-track-only entrant.