By Chris Lomon/Woodbine Communications
Canada: A Triple Crown could yet be won in North America in 2020 as one-eyed wonder Mighty Heart bids to become the first horse since 2003 to complete the Canadian version on Saturday in the Breeders’ Stakes (10.43pm BST) on turf at Woodbine.
Trained by three-time Queen’s Plate winner Josie Carroll, Mighty Heart headlines the final jewel of the tri-surface series for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, which concludes with the longest leg at the distance of 1m4f.
The front-running son of US sire Dramedy – who lost an eye in a paddock accident as a foal – is out to become Canada’s 13th Triple Crown winner overall and the eighth since the sweep was formalised in 1959. Wando, in 2003, was the most recent.
Representing owner-breeder Lawrence Cordes, Mighty Heart is even-money morning line favourite in the field of 12, having already won the Can$1million Queen’s Plate (at 1m2f on Tapeta at Wooodbine) on September 12 – by a runaway 7½ lengths – and the Prince of Wales at 1m1½f over Fort Erie’s dirt course on September 29.
“He’s a little horse that’s overcome [a lot],” said Carroll. “There’s something in racing we call heart, and horses with heart are what you’re looking for more so sometimes than horses with talent.”
The Toronto area has experienced rainy weather in the lead-up to Saturday’s Can$400,000 contest. “I can’t tell you how he’s going to handle a yielding turf,” said Carroll, 62.
“In North America, we very seldom get the chance to run on very soft turf. I believe he’ll handle the grass. He’s run once on the grass, and we had him up on the course the other day, and he just skipped across it.”
Then there is the 1m4f distance of Saturday’s race. “Pedigree-wise, we have every reason to think he’ll handle it but until a horse does that, you really don’t know,” added the Hall of Fame trainer.
“It’s a very, very challenging thing to be asking him to do right now. This horse has run two hard races and now you’re asking him to go a mile and a half on a possibly tiring course.”
Cordes is thrilled to see the outpouring of affection for Mighty Heart, which continues to swell ahead of the Breeders’ Stakes. “In this time of COVID, this is a boost to people,” said the owner.
“The phone calls I get from the west coast to east coast of Canada, my girlfriend and I have had multiple dozens of calls. People are just so excited.
“I feel the same thing, it just puts the excitement into me, so for all of the racing fans and all of his fans, let’s make it happen. Just cheer him on, we need everything we can get.”
Mighty Heart will once again have Daisuke Fukumoto in the irons. The young Japanese-born rider is still wrapping his head around the significance of what it would mean to come out on top in the Breeders’ Stakes.
“It would be very special,” said the jockey. “To win the Queen’s Plate is already special, but the Triple Crown is the highest. You never think of winning the Triple Crown.”
Mighty Heart doesn’t need to look too far for his chief rival, since betting suggests it is Queen’s Plate runner-up Belicheck, who is also trained by Carroll.
“This is a really talented horse,” said the trainer, who won the 2014 Breeders’ Stakes with Ami’s Holiday. “I think from the moment he came in my barn, he showed a great deal of ability.
“If anything has surprised me, it’s that it has taken this long for him to really blossom. I’m not surprised to have him in this position. It’s also very rewarding to train a horse of his calibre.”
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