Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart went straight to the front of the pack and never looked back, widening his lead in the stretch to win the 39th running of the $110,000 Jefferson Cup (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by four lengths over Captain Dixie.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite, Heart to Heart finished the mile-long event on firm turf in 1:34.44 under guidance from jockey Julien Leparoux. Trained by Brian Lynch, the 3-year-old son of English Channel returned backers with $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Captain Dixie paid $5.20 and $3.60 to place and third-place finisher Sportscaster paid $3.80 to show.
Stormy Pacific, Hesinfront, Battlefront and Almost Famous rounded out the order of finish. Speightsland was scratched.
Heart to Heart led by a length through the opening half-mile, posting fractions of :24.31 and :47.86 before widening to two lengths when asked after six furlongs in 1:11.46 and ahead three into the stretch.
The victory was the second consecutive stakes win for Heart to Heart, who took the $100,000 Better Talk Now at Saratoga in his last effort. The victory was worth $66,836 for Heart to Heart, who has won five of 12 starts and earned $330,161.
“We got the first quarter pretty easy; he was just galloping early on,” Leparoux said. “He was just happy in front. He relaxed and then when I asked him at the quarter pole he just gave a big kick. He’s a very nice, classy horse and he obviously won pretty easily.”
Heart to Heart was bred in Ontario by Red Hawk Ranch and is out of the Silver Deputy mare Ask the Question.
JEFFERSON CUP QUOTES
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of Heart to Heart (winner) – “We got the first quarter pretty easy; he was just galloping early on. He was just happy in front. He relaxed and then when I asked him at the quarter pole he just gave a big kick. He’s a very nice, classy horse and he obviously won pretty easily. I rode him once at Keeneland before and knew he was nice though because we won that day, too. So I was glad to be back on him.
KELLYN GORDER, trainer of Captain Dixie (runner-up) – “I was real proud of him because I think the hole (post two) kind of hurt us a little bit. But I think the winner was much the best."
RICARDO SANTANA JR., jockey on Captain Dixie (runner-up) – “He’s a nice horse. He broke sharp but I was able to sit in a perfect spot behind horses. When I asked him in the stretch he finished but he couldn’t catch the winner. A nice horse beat me.”
DALE ROMANS, trainer of Sportscaster (third) and Hesinfront (fifth) – “Sportscaster ran well. He’s a nice horse and I’ll think he’ll be really good as time goes on. Hesinfront, I don’t know. I just keep waiting for him to have a breakthrough race. I thought there was a little bit of track bias today and he was out there a little wide. These young horses are still learning to run, but I’m not giving up on him talent-wise.”
JESUS CASTANON, jockey on Sportscaster (third) – “The instructions were to just go ahead and give him a good break and to put myself right up there (near the front) and it worked out well. The winner looks like a good horse, but I felt on the backside that we were going to finish up in the top four.”