February 2, 2023

Mighty Heart, Belichick square off for rematch in Ontario Derby

Mighty Heart wisn the Prince of Wales
Mighty Heart (Michael Burns Photo)

The 2020 Canadian Triple Crown officially wrapped up with the running of the Breeders’ Stakes on Oct. 24. But Saturday’s $125,000 Ontario Derby (G3) at Woodbine is shaping up to be an unofficial fourth leg of the series, pitting the stars of the classic generation against each other in an intriguing grudge match.

The one-eyed fan favorite Mighty Heart dominated the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, beating Belichick by 7 1/2 lengths in the Queen’s Plate S. on Tapeta before cruising by 2 1/2 lengths in the Prince of Wales S. on dirt. But Belichick turned the tables when switching to turf for the Breeders’ Stakes, flashing home a four-length winner while Mighty Heart trudged home seventh.

Both colts are conditioned by hot trainer Josie Carroll, who expressed pleasure at how they’re training in advance of the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby.

“I couldn’t be happier with how they both came out of that last race and how they are coming into this one,” Carroll told Woodbine. “They’re doing really, really well.”

The shorter distance and return to Tapeta could lend an advantage to Mighty Heart, but there’s no guarantee either colt will visit the Ontario Derby winner’s circle. Though they rank as the best of the locals, they’ll face a formidable international opponent in the form of U.S. shipper Field Pass.

A four-time stakes winner trained Mike Maker, Field Pass is already proven racing 1 1/8 miles over a synthetic track, rallying to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) during the winter at Turfway Park. Fresh off a third-place effort in the 1 1/8-mile Twilight Derby (G2) on turf at Santa Anita, Field Pass should find the competition a bit easier at Woodbine, providing an opportunity for the gray colt to enhance his already impressive resume.

Lucky Curlin, runner-up in the Marine (G3) over the Woodbine Tapeta this summer, is another logical contender with an affinity for synthetic surfaces. Mnemba Island might not be as accomplished, but he does boast a 4-for-4 record running long over the Woodbine Tapeta. With three consecutive allowance wins to his credit, the stretch-running gelding appears capable of vying for victory at a price.

Deviant finished fourth in the Breeders’ Stakes despite missing some training during the summer, suggesting the son of hot young sire Daredevil is capable of producing an improved performance for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

Dune of Pilat, a two-time winner over synthetic tracks in Europe, will join recent Woodbine allowance winner Malibu Mambo to complete the field. Post time for the Ontario Derby is 4:58 p.m. ET.