Mighty Heart thrives on being an underdog. It’s so Canadian.
One-eyed. Smallish indeed, beside his peers. Recognizable with that hood adorned with a bubble and that way of running low, sticking his neck out for the wire. His heart is always in the right place.
Well, he’s back. He makes his 2021 debut at home in the Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine on Thursday, facing a rather salty field, with Skywire, (Canada’s top older male last season with a couple of stakes wins); March to the Arch (second in last year’s Woodbine Mile, winner of the King Edward, Tampa Bay Stakes, and the Wise Dan); Lookin To Strike, (winner of the 2018 Ontario Derby), and Belichick, his stablemate that snapped Mighty Heart’s bid to become a Triple Crown winner in the Breeders Stakes at Woodbine last October.
Mighty Heart comes armed with 2020 Horse of the Year in Canada honours, and a gutsy win in the $150,000 Blame Stakes under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs on May 29. “He’s got a heart that goes with his name,” said James Graham, who rode him that day. “He’s a very tough individual. Every time he had a horse that came alongside of him in deep stretch, he wanted to stick his neck out to make sure he was still in front. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to ride such a gusty horse like him.”
Mighty Heart won by a nose, charging between horses like Night Opps and Sprawl, who finished third behind Maxfield and Warrior’s Charge in the Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill. Mighty Heart had been the second-longest shot on the board at 9 to 1.
Belichick lost an allowance race at Keeneland by a nose earlier this season. But he’s big and bold and full of himself.
Daisuke Fukumoto, who rode Mighty Heart to victories in the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, gets the mount again on the Horse of the Year. He was aboard when Mighty Heart finished seventh in the Breeders, as the colt went to the lead and was pressed all the way by a 101-1 longshot that finished last. It took its toll.
Mighty Heart will break from post four in the seven-horse field in the race at 1 1/16th miles. He won’t be a longshot this time, but he’ll be facing an interesting lineup of older horses at home. It might rain on him that day. But there’s a magic and a mystique about Mighty Heart, humbly born and undaunted by it.