Brian Lynch was still able to put on a smile and keep his sense of humor intact in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1T), because after watching the same bad dream play out over the Keeneland course, there was little else the trainer could do than throw some positivity at the situation.
For the sixth time in his charge's career, Lynch's hard-knocking trainee Heart to Heart took aim at a grade 1 win. And for the third time this season alone, the 6-year-old son of English Channel was at the head of the pack in the stretch, seemingly poised to end his reputation as the equine version of Sisyphus.
As was the case in the Maker's 46 Mile Stakes (G1T) in April and as was the case in the Shoemaker Mile Stakes (G1T) in June, the boulder came rolling back down on the popular bay horse just when looked as if he reached the summit. This time it took the form of European invader Suedois, a group winner who used his stateside venture to end his own top-level futility.
In a near replay of his runner-up effort in the Maker's 46 Mile, the frontrunning Heart to Heart led at every point of call except the one that counted most, when he was caught in late stretch by Suedois in the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, as the latter earned his first top-level score in his U.S. debut. It was a brutal case of déjà vu for Heart to Heart's team, as he was edged by American Patriot over the Keeneland course in the spring and was beaten just three-quarters of a length when third in the Shoemaker Mile.
"You feel for the horse, because he runs his eyeballs out every time, but you have to be humble and gallant in defeat as hard as he tries every time," Lynch said of Heart to Heart, who has nine graded wins from 31 starts but is winless in six grade 1 tries.
The depth of the 14-horse Shadwell field was such that whomever prevailed would be a most worthy adversary heading into a potential Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) start at Del Mar Nov. 4. In addition to Heart to Heart, the eight-furlong test featured multiple grade 1 winner Divisidero cutting back to a mile and defending race heroine Miss Temple City.
Where his stablemate and fellow entrant Mondialiste was a multiple grade 1 winner in North America, Suedois was a wild card heading into the Shadwell. The 6-year-old Le Havre gelding captured the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes (G2) at Leopardstown Sept. 9 to snap a 13-race losing skid that featured seven tries against group 1 company in sprint races.
"We've targeted horses in this country before quite successfully and the money was very big," said David O'Meara, trainer of both Suedois and Mondialiste, who came home fifth. "We wanted to keep him at a mile. We contested him in five or six group 1s last year and he was hitting the woodwork in them all. He was placing in most of them. It's something I always wanted to do, to step him up to a mile. And since he's come up to a mile now, he's won two out of two.
"Maybe I was running him over the wrong trip all along."
Sent off at 9-1 odds in the Shadwell, Suedois worked out an ideal venture under jockey Daniel Tudhope, as Heart to Heart was trying once more to get his speed to last the duration.
The latter took his customary position up front after breaking from post 10 under Florent Geroux. He wasn't able to get everything his own way, however, as longshot Christian C was at his hip through an opening quarter in :23.96, with Applicator joining the fray three-wide as they hit the half-mile mark in :48.17.
"If he had had a breather down the backside, he might have been able to finish better, but that is racing," Lynch said.
While Heart to Heart was trying to fend off the heat up front, Suedois was settled in an outside path in seventh and still had a fistful of horses to pass as he shifted out entering the stretch.
Heart to Heart looked to have his grade 1 in his pocket when he put Miss Temple City away in mid-stretch, but the bay horse was swallowed up in the final strides by Suedois, who motored three-wide outside of Ballagh Rocks, with the winner getting up by a half-length.
The final time for the distance was 1:35.94 over firm going. Ballagh Rocks was a head back of Heart to Heart in third, while Divisidero rallied to get fourth over Mondialiste.
"He sat in fifth or sixth at Leopardstown when he won, so there was no deliberate change in tactics," O'Meara said.
Miss Temple City, who last year became the first female runner to win both the Maker's 46 Mile and Shadwell Turf Mile, was outkicked in the lane and came home sixth—her third loss in four starts this season. The 5-year-old daughter of Temple City is slated to be offered at the Fasig-Tipton November sale and trainer Graham Motion indicated that a Breeders' Cup start would be unlikely.
"I'll talk to the owners, but I think she's had an amazing run and it's time to be a momma," Motion said of the dark bay mare.
Owned by George Turner and Clipper Logistics and bred by Elizabeth Vidal, Suedois improved his record to eight wins from 32 starts with $1,366,012 in earnings.
"We'll have to chat with the owners (about Breeders' Cup)," O'Meara said. "We'll just have to see."