Monday, August 20, 2018

By Jennifer Morrison

When Heart to Heart stepped into the sales ring for the CTHS Ontario yearling auction in 2012 he was easy to spot. The smallish bay colt had an almost perfect heart-shaped marking on his forehead that sales onlookers enjoyed pointing out.

Turns out that marking has become even more famous over the years as Heart to Heart went from sales yearling to Grade 1 winner to the richest horse ever to be sold at the CTHS sale. Still racing successfully today, Heart to Heart, now, 7-years-old, has earned over $2 million for owner Terry Hamilton of Alberta.

Heart to Heart, a son of Champion American Turf horse English Channel was one of just two horses bred by Darrell Bauder’s Red Hawk Ranch in Manitoba in 2011 and he was foaled in Ontario at Steve and Kathleen Kemp’s Ballycroy Training Centre. Bauder bred his Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question to English Channel after he purchased the season to the sire at a charity auction.

An “in your face” and active youngster, Heart to Heart was purchased by agent Alistair Roden on behalf of Hamilton for $25,000 at the 2012 sale. The colt’s diminutive size seemed to keep bidders away but that was good news for his new owner.

Hamilton knew he had something special when Heart to Heart won his career debut at Arlington Park in Chicago in July 2013 by more than eight lengths. Trained at that time by Mike Stidham, Heart to Heart was brought back to Canada where he finished second in the Vandal Stakes beaten just a nose and he ended the year with a fourth-place finish in the prestigious Coronation Futurity.

The colt was transferred to Woodbine trainer Brian Lynch before his 3-year-old season and early plans had the Queen’s Plate as a goal. Lynch and Hamilton eventually found that it was the grass, however, that would be Heart to Heart’s best surface.

Just to prove how happy he was getting into turf races, Heart to Heart won three straight stakes races in the U.S. on turf, two of them graded, and that earned him the Sovereign Award for Canada’s Champion 3-year-old Male beating out Prince of Wales winner Coltimus Prime and Breeders’ Stakes winner Ami’s Holiday.

Knowing that his speedy little turf star loved tight turns on the American grass courses, Lynch mapped out a steady diet of big turf events south of the border for the colt.

Through 2015 and 2016 Heart to Heart won graded stakes race at Monmouth Park, Gulfstream and Belmont but that was just a warm up for the horse’s biggest career year.

At the outset of 2017, Lynch and Hamilton had hopes of seeing Heart to Heart win a Grade 1 and so the travel-loving fellow went from coast to coast seeking that big win. He finished second in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland in April, third in the Shoemaker Mile (Grade 1) at Santa Anita in June and a close second in the Shadwell Mile in October back at Keeneland.

He banked over $550,000 in 2017.

The big moment came this past February in Florida when Heart to Heart led all the way to win the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap. He put an exclamation point on that victory when he came right back to win the Maker’s Mark Mile in April for his second Grade 1.

“It was such an unbelievable moment,” said Hamilton, who started going to the track in Lethbridge as a youngster with his dad and began his horse ownership career in standardbreds. “We’d been trying to win a Grade 1 race for a long time. But then he did it.”

Heart to Heart’s career totals stand at 15 wins from 37 starts, nine other top three placings and just over $2 million in earnings.

Keep an eye out for this CTHS sales graduate as he heads to the Breeders’ Cup Mile this November at Churchill Downs.