Valor’s Queen Of Hearts

SA bred Fort Wood mare brings further joy to Team Valor International as daughter shows her true pluck


Team Valor International’s homebred Three Hearts scored a superb victory in the 2200m Gr3 Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday and joined Breeders’ Cup hero Pluck as the second graded winner for her SA-bred dam, Secret Heart.

The win came 27 years to the day after trainer Neil Drysale’s first big win for Barry Irwin.

Team Valor International’s 4yo homebred filly Three Hearts, well positioned throughout by jockey Joe Talamo, dug deep down the homestretch of the Bing Crosby Turf Course to score a convincing upset at odds of 29 to 1 in the $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap.

Three Hearts was sired by Japanese import Hat Trick. Both sire and dam were imported to the Unites States by Barry Irwin.

In a nifty bit of historical coincidence, Neil Drysdale was saddling a Graded winner for a partnership formed by Barry Irwin 27 years to the day that he sent out B. Eye’s initial Graded winner in the 1987 Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Political Ambition.

Three Hearts was making her first start for Drysdale, who had been sent the Kentucky-bred after Irwin closed up the company operation at Fair Hill training center and Maryland and dispersed his stock to several trainers.

“I feel comfortable having horses in Neil’s care,” Irwin said. “He is a super talented horseman and he always lets me know where I stand with my stock. He took the blinkers off today, stretched her out to what turned out to be a suitable distance and the result was fantastic.”

Barry Irwin

Barry Irwin (photo Anne Eberhardt)

Three Hearts was well positioned throughout by Joe Talamo, who got a split at the top of the lane, put the filly’s head in front and rode her to a convincing half-length score that secured her first money of $60,000 to increase her earnings to nearly $200,000.

Talamo told a TVG interviewer after the race that the filly was not tired even after the race. Drysdale said the filly would continue to improve. Team Valor plans to keep the filly in training as a 5-year-old, after which she would join Team Valor’s broodmare band.

“Her dam Secret Heart, which I imported from South Africa as a racehorse, died unexpectedly from a coronary thrombosis in July,” Irwin said. “Three Hearts is a magnificent specimen, as was her dam, and we look forward to breeding foals to sell and race out of her.”

The 15-year-old daughter of Fort Wood out of Secret Pact, by Bush Telegraph, was in foal to Point of Entry, and she left behind a colt foal by Medaglia d’Oro.

“She was the ideal mare,” said Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin, who imported Secret Heart from her native South Africa in 2004 and considered her to have the best pedigree in the stable’s band of 28 broodmares in the U.S., Ireland and South Africa. “She had speed, she had size, her pedigree improved every year and her first foal was sensational. This is a hard one to swallow.”

The ill-fated Secret Heart and her Kitten's Joy colt in April 2013 (photo:  Sara Fagan of Denali Stud)

The ill-fated Secret Heart and her Kitten’s Joy colt in April 2013 (photo: Sara Fagan of Denali Stud)

In South Africa, Secret Heart won a Listed stakes and placed in four Grade 1 races, including two classics. She placed twice in the U.S. and then was retired and bred to More Than Ready in the mating that produced Pluck.

The nearly black colt captured the Grade 3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine before rallying from last to score comfortably from the outside post in the Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs after stumbling at the start and having to swerve to avoid a fallen rival in the first turn.

Pluck now stands for Vinery in Australia.

Secret Heart was a half sister to South African Grade 1 winner Covenant and champion Promisefrommyheart, who has produced multiple Graded stakes winner and new stallion Master of My Fate.

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