Under the familiar guidance of jockey Julien Leparoux while having his way with the pace on the front end, the 7-year-old son of English Channel led at every call and held off Kurilov to win by a neck in the 1 1/8-mile test.
"The elusive grade 1! Watching him come back in and blowing as hard as he blew after that race, he gave it his all to win the race," trainer Brian Lynch said of his runner, who finished seventh after rearing at the start of the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) Jan. 13. "He's an absolute deserved horse to have a '1' next to his name. It's nice to get it done here because he's always loved this track."
In Saturday's test Heart to Heart broke sharp and managed to secure the lead on the rail as the eight-horse field entered the first turn. Although One Go All Go tracked close in second, with Hi Happy not far behind in third, Heart to Heart took control of the pace and ran fractions of :24.15, :48.74, and 1:12.08 through six furlongs.
Around the turn for home, Heart to Heart started to open up on the competition, as the Chad Brown-trained Kurilov made a move down the stretch. With some asking from Leparoux, Heart to Heart dug in and held off a final effort from Kurilov to win. The final time was 1:47.64 over the turf rated firm.
"He broke good and I got to the lead, and I was pretty comfortable the whole way," Leparoux said of the ride. "I'm glad the wire was coming, too, though because they were coming fast at the end. (Heart to Heart) tries, he tries hard, and he deserves that grade 1 win, and we finally got one. We're all very happy about it.
"Everybody loves Heart to Heart. He's a cool horse to be around in the morning, and he tries so hard."
The win was his 10th graded stakes win in a career that's spanned from ages 2 to 7.
Heart to Heart almost found top-level success last fall in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1T) in October at Keeneland, but came up a half-length short to Suedois after leading the field throughout. In his next start he weakened to finish 10th behind eventual champion grass horse World Approval, after a quick pace in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) at Del Mar.
The bay runner opened 2018 with a seventh-place finish in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes, going 1 1/16 miles over Gulfstream's turf, after rearing at the start and attempting to settle in fourth.
"When they throw craps at you like that, it's in the back of your mind that it could happen again and that maybe he's not trying to go in the right direction," Lynch said of the Ft. Lauderdale run. "His works and everything indicated that (we should) put a pencil through that."
Bred by Red Hawk Ranch in Ontario, out of the Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question, Heart to Heart was purchased by Hamilton for $25,348 out of the 2012 Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Canadian-bred yearling sale. He earned a Sovereign Award as the champion 3-year-old colt in his native Canada in 2014, the year he came under Lynch's care.
With his win Saturday, he now has a 14-5-3 record from 34 starts and earnings of $1,737,290.