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OffTrackBetting.com - Terry Hamilton's Heart to Heart, who has won the hearts of racing fans while compiling a resume of longevity as well as excellence, will embark on his sixth racing season in Saturday's $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 7-year-old son of English Channel will seek to win his 10th graded-stakes and 12th overall stakes in the 61st running of the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes that will highlight a 12-race program that will also offer the $100,000 Marshua's River (G3).
"He's not a very big horse. He's not very hard on himself. He doesn't take a lot of training," trainer Brian Lynch said. "Fortunately, through the grace of God, he's been a lovely sound horse that keeps getting better with age."
Heart to Heart has been a multiple-stakes winner in each of the past four racing seasons since joining Lynch's stable following a promising 2-year-old season.
"Physically, each year as he's gotten older - he's still a full horse, so physically, he's got more substance to him - he's a little bit stronger as he's matured," Lynch said. "He's still got the 1 and 2's in his program, so it shows he still enjoys his job and there's still a lot of run in him."
Heart to Heart hasn't seen action since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G3) at Del Mar Nov. 4. The Ontario-bred turf specialist set a pressured early pace between horses before tiring in the stretch, finishing only three lengths behind victorious World Approval.
"The heat was on in the kitchen from the get-go. They got the half in 45 (seconds). You'd have to be a super horse to finish coming off those early fractions," Lynch said. "The margin wasn't so bad. He got beat by three lengths for everything. In the grand scheme of things, he ran very, very big to hang on as well as he did off the fractions he had to carve out early."
Heart to Heart earned a trip to Del Mar during a season that included victories in the Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream and the Bernard Baruch (G2) at Saratoga, as well as Grade 1 placings in the Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita and the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland.
Heart to Heart has shown a distinct fondness for the Gulfstream Park turf course, over which he has won four stakes, including the 2016 Fort Lauderdale, from five starts - his only loss coming in a tiring fourth-place finish in last year's Fort Lauderdale.
Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount aboard the enduring turf star, who is scheduled to face seven rivals, including Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Shining Copy, another multiple Grade 1 stakes-placed old warrior who does his best running on the front end.
"He's a pretty strong horse to begin with. With Heart to Heart in there there's probably going to be a strong pace up front," trainer Mike Maker said.
The 8-year-old gelding finished second by a neck to Lukes Alley in last year's Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) and third behind The Pizza Man in the 2015 Arlington Million (G1) but didn't win his first graded-stakes until taking the River City (G3) at Churchill Downs in his last start Nov. 23.
"He got loose on the lead, dared anybody to go with him and was game on the end," Maker said. "With his speed he's going to find himself up front. He's just a naturally fast horse." Shining Copper, who was claimed by his currently connections for $62,500 in May 15, has won eight starts and nearly $700,000 in earnings.
"He's just an old veteran that we're looking forward to getting back going. This was the race we were pointing for," Maker said. "He's 8 and still going strong. Everybody's different, but he's one that we're fortunate to run at that level at this age."
Jose Ortiz has picked up the mount aboard Shining Copper, who is being pointed to the Sandy Lane Gold Cup in Barbados in late February.
"After this we're going to take him to Barbados. We've gone the last four years. We won the first two years we went and the last two years we've been second," Maker said. "I've been down there and really enjoyed myself and Mr. Ramsey loves going down there so it's something we point to."
Roger Attfield-trained Shakhimat is scheduled to return in the Fort Lauderdale after capturing the Tropical Park Turf (G3) over the Gulfstream course Dec. 16. Owned by Attfield, Dan Gale and William Werner, the 5-year-old gelding, who won the 2015 Transylvania (G3) at Keeneland, will be ridden again by Edgard Zayas.
Wertheimer and Frere's All Included is scheduled to make his second start off a seven-month layoff Saturday, having finished a tiring fifth in the Tropical Park Turf, 1 ¾ lengths behind Shakhimat. The Todd Pletcher-trained 7-year-old, who won the Appleton Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream last year, will be ridden by Luis Saez.
Trainer Scooter Dickey will attempt to saddle his second straight Fort Lauderdale winner Saturday. After visiting the winner's circle with Flatlined last year, Dickey will be represented by One Go All Go, who lost a photo finish in a recent optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream. Chris Landeros has the mount.
Team Colors, Diamond Bachelor and Summer Causeway round out the field that also includes main-track-only entrant Beneficiary.
Race 11 on Gulfstream Park's Saturday card with a Post Time of 5:00 PM
|1||Summer Causeway||50-1||Oscar Ulloa||Jaime Mejia|
|2||One Go All Go||12-1||Chris Landeros||Charles Dickey|
|3||Heart to Heart||1-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Brian Lynch|
|4||Diamond Bachelor||20-1||Lane Luzzi||Patrick Biancone|
|5||Shining Copper||7-2||Jose Ortiz||Michael Maker|
|6||All Included||9-2||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher|
|7||Team Colors||15-1||Joel Rosario||J. Sweezey|
|8||Shakhimat||6-1||Edgard Zayas||Roger Attfield|
|9||Beneficiary||30-1||Edgar Prado||Nick Mastronardi, Jr.|
|Race Tracks||Time (EST)|