01/11/2016 12:19PM

Heart to Heart steals another in Ft. Lauderdale

Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photos
Julien Leparoux and Heart to Heart go wire to wire in the Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Heart to Heart has proven tough to beat whenever he is allowed to relax on the lead, and he successfully used that strategy once again Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Heart to Heart won his fifth Grade 3 race over the past 16 months when he led throughout to register a half- length decision over Lukes Alley in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes.

Despite breaking from the outside in an 11-horse field, Heart to Heart just cruised to the front under jockey Julien Leparoux to set the pace through reasonable splits of 24.28, 48.38 and 1:11.90 for the opening six furlongs over the firm turf course. Heart to Heart surged well clear coming off the final turn, then had enough left to withstand a final surge from Lukes Alley. Lukes Alley slipped through along the rail and rallied for second. The Canadian invader has now finished first or second in his last nine starts.

All Included pressed the pace and outlasted the 2-1 favorite Locthe by a nose to finish third.

Heart to Heart is trained by Brian Lynch for owner Terry Hamilton. He negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.71 and paid $8.

“He’s tough when he makes the lead and gets to dictate the terms,” said Lynch. “I’ve always thought he’s a superior turn runner and he did it again today going into that bottom turn. They were all sort of scratching the leather to get to him, and his little ears pricked and he opened up. He always has an opportunity to steal a few lengths as they straighten for home, and I think that’s where he gets it.”

Lynch said another key to Heart to Heart’s success is spacing his races properly. The Ft. Lauderdale was Heart to Heart’s first start since he won the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26.

“When you give him a little time between races he’s very effective,” said Lynch. “He’s had a nice little break since the River City. He got a mile and one-eighth in the River City, which I thought was a stretch, and got freshened up and got a mile and one-sixteenth today. Hopefully he’s got a big year ahead of him.”