To anyone who would listen, trainer JOSIE CARROLL said the maiden colt BELICHICK was the one to watch in Saturday’s $400,000 Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine.
But it was Larry Cordes’ folk hero MIGHTY HEART, trained with expertise by Carroll to win the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, who stole the show heading into the Breeders; the scrappy one-eyed colt who was attempting to sweep the Triple Crown for the first time since Wando in 2003.
And it was Mighty Heart who was the focus of millions watching from east to west on television or simulcast as the field of 11 broke from the gate in front of an empty grandstand and a handful of grooms and media.
Early on in the marathon event, however, experienced race watchers knew the current hero of Canadian racing was in trouble.
Sharp from the gate. Mighty Heart and jockey Daisuke Fukumoto quickly moved from post 8 to the rail up the hill around the first turn of the E.P. Taylor turf course to take the lead, but he had company.
Kunal, a 100-to-1 longshot ridden by Emile Ramsammy and brought north by owner Bruno Schickedanz after winning a $12,500 claiming race at Gulfstream, was also set on the lead. With another longshot, Told It All, in close pursuit, the trio took off from the field, clocking fast fractions of :23.69 and :47.45 to the half-mile on a turf course listed as good, damp from a week of rain.
To his credit, the brave Mighty Heart stayed on as hard as he could as the field swarmed him on the final turn. Kunal had dropped back sharply, Told It All faded, but the big colt Belichick loomed large and went by his fabled stablemate on his way to a 4-length win.
MEYER (Singing Saint), a recent claim by Schickedanz, benefitted from his ‘rabbit’ mate (Kunal is trained by Steven Chircop but Meyer is trained by Martin Drexler) and powered into second at 54-to-1, three lengths clear of English Conqueror, owned by JWS Stable and trained by Darwin Banach.
Mighty Heart was left gasping and landed seventh, some 20 lengths behind Belichick who was ridden by Luis Contreras. The final time of 2:32.51 was slow compared to recent years, but suggested the turf was on the giving side.
BELICHICK, a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by agents Solis/Litt for LNJ Foxwoods and NK Racing, was another impressive training feat for Carroll who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2019 and is in the midst of what has to be considered a Sovereign Award season for top trainer.
Bred by Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, the Lemon Drop Kid colt from the mare Game (Fr) by Montjeu (Ire) was a green colt when he debuted July 4 in a 7 furlong turf race won by eventual stakes winner Shirl’s Speight.
“Oh my god, he was so distracted the first race. I came over here with high expectations of him, I knew in the paddock I was in trouble,” said Carroll.
“He was looking at a white pony and he was all googly-eyed at him, all over the place.”
Belichick went on to finish second in a nine-furlong main track maiden race and then finished well after early trouble when second to Mighty Heart in the Plate.
“Off his first race he seasoned a little, and then more so the next race, and then today when I was back at the barn he was sleeping all day, stretched right out in the stall … just crashed. The nerves are all gone, he’s just turned into a real professional.”
A visibly disappointed Daisuke Fukumoto said after the race that Mighty Heart “relaxed a little bit” down the backstretch but that it was not part of the plan to go to the lead. The young rider put his faith in his colt, hoping that the rapid pace would not hinder his star, but at 12 furlongs, there was no chance Mighty Heart could keep going.
LNJ Foxwoods is Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth of Long Island, New York, which entered into racing in 2012 and have raced Kentucky Derby winner COUNTRY HOUSE which the farm owned in partnership and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner COVFEFE. Jaime, who has a masters in Sports Business and worked in public relations for the New York Knicks, has been a lifelong racing fan and brought her family into the sport. Larry Roth was a main part of the eyewear company Marchon, sold in 2008.
NK Racing is Nancy Favreau and Kathy Psoinos, in whose silks Belichick race. Favreau and Psoinos raced Grade 1winner Competitive Edge, their second horse, in 2014. Favreau and Psoinos live in Andover, Massachusetts, and are retired from careers in property management.
NK Racing, on its own in 2020, has 5 wins and has Sansa’s Vow in today’s Wonder Where Stakes.
The Fitzhenrys purchased Game for $27,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale as a broodmare prospect. She produced Wonder Where Stakes winner Season Ticket, also by Lemon Drop Kid. A yearling colt by Distorted Humour went unsold by the Fitzhenrys this year at Keeenland for $120,000.
What is next for Belichick and Mighty Heart? Assuming both come out of the Breeders’ in fine shape, the colts could come back in the Grade 3 Ontario Derby at 9 furlongs on Tapeta on Nov. 21.