Terry Hamilton's Heart to Heart began 2016 the way his 2015 season ended—with a victory in a graded stakes, this time the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (gr. IIT) for 4-year-olds and up Jan. 9 at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Brian Lynch, Heart to Heart took command early, wasn't pressured by his opponents, and continued strongly to the wire to finish 1 1/16 miles on a firm turf course in 1:41.71. He defeated Lukes Alley, a multiple graded stakes winner on Polytrack at Woodbine, by a half-length, with All Included third and favored Lochte fourth.
It was the seventh win in 12 turf starts for Heart to Heart, a $25,348 Canadian sale yearling purchase bred in Ontario by Red Hawk Ranch. The 5-year-old horse by English Channel out of the Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question won two grade III grass stakes in 2015: the Oceanport at Monmouth Park and the River City Handicap at Churchill Downs to conclude his year.
In 2014 Heart to Heart won two other grade III turf stakes in the same fashion: grab the lead quickly and never look back.
"He always breaks good," Leparoux said. "We were already a length in front of everybody after the break. I think the key is not to fight with him. If you just stay quiet on him, he'll finish good for you."
Heart to Heart, who paid $8 to win in a field of nine, set fractions of :24.28 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.38 for the half-mile, 1:11.90 for six furlongs, and 1:35.59 for one mile. He entered the Ft. Lauderdale off three solid turf works at Palm Meadows Training Center.
"When you give him a little time between races he's very effective," Lynch said. "He has had a nice little break since River City and he's a very exciting little horse. He got the mile and an eighth in the River City, which I thought was a stretch, and got freshened up and got the mile and a sixteenth today. Hopefully he's got a big year ahead of him."
Lynch said Heart to Heart could resurface Feb. 6 in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT), but also acknowledged that schedule could be a bit tight.