Standing in the way of Mighty Heart‘s quest for a Canadian Triple Crown sweep in Saturday’s C$400,000 Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine is not only turf and the 1 1/2-mile distance, neither of which the son of Dramedy has yet mastered. Also in the path are familiar faces to the Larry Cordes homebred, including fellow Josie Carroll stablemate Belichick.
But all eyes and many hopes will be on Mighty Heart, who seeks to become only the 13th horse since 1932 to win all three Canadian classics and the first to do so on three separate surfaces. A 13-1 chance when demolishing his rivals in the Queen’s Plate over Woodbine’s Tapeta surface on Sept. 12, Mighty Heart was an odds-on victor of the Princes of Wales Stakes over the dirt at Fort Erie on Sept. 29, and for Saturday’s race he’s been pegged at even-money on the morning line.
“Pedigree-wise we have every reason to believe he should handle (the turf),” said Carroll of Mighty Heart, who finished up the track in his only prior run over the grass at Fair Grounds in March.
“It’s a 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,” Carroll added. “Hopefully he’s up to the challenge. It’s a big unknown.”
Far more lightly raced and still a maiden, Belichick nonetheless poses a potentially serious threat. Runner-up in the Queen’s Plate, Belichick enters fresh and should get plenty of fondness for turf as well as stamina from sire Lemon Drop Kid and broodmare sire Montjeu. Belichick is also a full brother to Season Ticket, whose signature victory came in the 2015 Wonder Where Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on the turf.
Like the favorite, Plate Trial winner Clayton has contested the previous two classics. Nearly 10 lengths adrift in third in the Queen’s Plate, the gap was a smaller 2 1/2 lengths when Clayton took runner-up honors at Fort Erie, but the margin wasn’t that close in the final furlong.
Nine others were entered in the Breeders’, but all were listed at 12-1 or higher on the morning line. Some have winning form on the grass, but all concede plenty of back class to the top three. English Conqueror and Muskoka Giant are both graduates over the E.P. Taylor turf course, while Deviant won a pair of minor turf stakes early in his career but has been well beaten in his last four starts.
The last Canadian Triple Crown sweep, and the only one since 1994, was achieved by Wando in 2003.