Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart grabbed the lead out of the starting gate in Belmont’s G3 Knickerbocker, then set a measured pace and had enough left to hold on for the win by a half-length at the wire. The 5-year-old by English Channel, under the expert handling of Irad Ortiz, Jr., recorded a final time of 1:50.62 for nine furlongs over the yielding turf for trainer Brian Lynch.
“Definitely, the question mark was the mile and an eighth distance, but some of his best races are when he’s fresh,” said Lynch. “When you handicap the race there wasn’t a lot of speed in it and if they left him alone he would be able to dictate his terms. He seems to do his best running late if he gets to dictate the terms. He’s not a real big horse, he doesn’t take a lot of work to get ready. It’s nice when a plan comes together.”
Both Jay Gatsby and Heart to Heart broke sharply, but the latter won the dash to the first turn and would lead by a length over March through a first quarter in :25.68. Heart to Heart was carrying his head a bit high early on as Ortiz struggled to get him to settle, but after a half mile in :51.47 he seemed to relax into stride. March continued to track from second, with Jay Gatsby and War Dancer moving in tandem behind the leading pair. Approaching the second turn, Heart to Heart started to stretch out his lead, moving out to a 1 1/2-length advantage.
At the head of the lane, Heart to Heart changed leads smoothly and continued to pull away slightly. Jay Gatsby moved up the rail to take up second, then angled out to challenge for the lead. Heart to Heart gave a big spurt with an eighth of a mile to run to lead by 2 1/2 lengths, then seemed to tire in the final 70 yards as Jay Gatsby was able to close the winning margin to just a half length. Blacktype was surging late to be best of the rest in third, and Mr Maybe was fourth.
“He’s got tactical speed, he sent me to the lead and I tried to slow down,” relayed Ortiz. “It was soft ground so I tried to hold it together as long as I could. They brought him ready to run a mile and an eighth today.”
Bred in Ontario by Red Hawk Ranch, Heart to Heart was a $ 25,348 yearling purchase at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society sale. The uniquely-marked bay hadn’t been seen since finishing fourth in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita in June, but announced his return in style to record his 10th lifetime win from 23 starts in the Knickerbocker. Overall, Heart to Heart has won seven graded stakes and earned nearly $ 930,000.
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