With an eye on bigger prizes at Gulfstream Park this winter, Heart to Heart got off to a hot start at the 2016-17 Championship Meet by winning the $ 100,000 El Prado on Saturday afternoon.
Piloted by Julien Leparoux, the 5-year-old son of English Channel set a pressured pace in the 7 1/2-furlong turf race and hung on for a neck victory over Flatlined.
Leparoux said he and Heart to Heart’s exit from the starting gate was not the smoothest.
“He actually broke and threw his head up and kind of bumped my nose a little bit, but the rail stayed open so I just put him in there and he relaxed good,” Leparoux said. “He loves this track. He got a little tired at the end, but I think he ran a big race.”
At the 2015-16 Gulfstream Park stand, the Brian Lynch-trained Heart to Heart won both the Fort Lauderdale (G2) and Canadian Turf (G3) for owner Terry Hamilton.
Lynch said those are his objectives again with Heart to Heart, who has won at distances up to 1 1/8 miles.
“He’s a versatile little guy; he won the Knickerbocker at a mile an eighth,” Lynch said. “Whenever he can dictate his terms — like today, I think he got pressed on a little bit and that is probably not his game. I think a mile and a mile and a sixteenth is his best game where he can clear them a little bit and just relax on a comfortable half-mile.”
The $ 200,000 Fort Lauderdale at 1 1/16 miles will be run Jan. 14, and is followed by the $ 150,000 Canadian Turf on March 4 at a mile.
Heart to Heart, whose earnings after the El Prado win reached $ 997,530, returned $ 3.60 as the favorite and completed the distance in 1:30.03 over a firm course.
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