An unlikely hero in the most unlikeliest of years.
The story of Mighty Heart will go down in the annals of Thoroughbred racing history not just because he won Canada's most famous horse race, the Queen's Plate, but because his story and that of the people, and the world, around him is one of overcoming incredible odds.
The year 2020 was unlike any other that any of us have, or likely ever will again, experienced. The world came under the attack of a deadly corona virus, Covid-19, upending our lives forever.
Horse racing, like all sports, would be halted for months. When it returned, the biggest races had been postponed and for the most part, tracks ran races without fans in the grandstand.
Mighty Heart was one of a handful of horses owned by 76-year-old Lawrence Cordes, owner of a machine repair business in Ontario, horse lover, father and grandfather. Cordes had dabbled in racing for some 40 years, never with more than two or three horses and mostly claiming horses.
In the early 2000s, tragedy felled Cordes and his family when his wife Connie, daughter Evelyn and son-in-law Jim all passed away from cancer in a short time period. He left racing for many years. When Cordes got back into the sport he loves he decided to try his hand at breeding his own horses with a couple of mares. In April of 2017, Emma's Bullseye produced a feisty bay colt by the obscure Kentucky stallion Dramedy. The mare''s first couple of foals appeared to have some talent and Cordes and his horse-loving family were excited.
That is until they got the call some six weeks later that the young colt emerged from a day in the paddock with his mum with a badly damaged eye. The eye would have to be removed.
Cordes wanted to give the colt a chance to race and as a 2-year-old, the one-eyed colt, christened Mighty Heart, joined the stable of Josie Carroll, a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame trainer. Carroll had her work cut out. Mighty Heart made his first two starts in New Orleans at Fair Grounds racetrack in the winter of 2020 but bolted wildly each time. Yes, he had a bothersome tooth issue but in essence, it appeared his sight handicap might be an issue.
And then, after the colt's second career race, Covid-19 locked down the world. He wouldn't make his first start at Woodbine in Toronto, Ontario until July when he he won a maiden race as a longshot in impressive fashion.
Thus began a remarkable horse racing fairy tale.
Paired with young Japanese jockey Daisuke Fukumoto. Mighty Heart won the delayed Queen's Plate, the first jewel of Canada's Triple Crown, on Sept. 12 by more than seven lengths in the second fastest time ever for the 1 1/4 Canadian classic. He came right back less than three weeks later and won the second jewel of the Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.
He became a cult hero in horse racing in all parts of the world. Cordes and his family were thrust into the sports spotlight. The colt's groom, Siobhan Brown, whose diagnosis of epilepsy as a teenager put an end to many dreams she had growing up in Nova Scotia, appeared on television news shows in her home province.
Woodbine handed out Mighty Heart t-shirts produced by Old Smoke Clothing as the colt sought to become the first Triple Crown winner since 2003 and only the 13th in history in the Breeders' Stakes. Unfortunately, at the gruelling distance of 1 1/2 miles on grass, he became locked in a tough, early pace battle and tired.
Still, the rise of this courageous colt and the everyday family that owned him lifted spirits and gave people new hope that anything be can be overcome. Mighty Heart went on to be named Canada's Horse of the year in 2020 and Champion Three-Year-Old Colt.
His story does not end there.
This year, Mighty Heart, as a mature 4-year-old, won the Blame Stakes at hallowed Churchill Downs and the prestigious Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine on Canada Day, July 1, the first day spectators were welcomed back at the races. There were fans lined up at the railing sporting their Mighty Heart T-shirts.
Mighty Heart is on a quest in 2021 to become a champion again. He has several top races for older horses on his schedule including the September 11 Seagram Cup, a Grade 3 race named after one of the most famous owners in Canadian racing history.
Grab your Mighty Heart T-Shirt and follow this Thoroughbred hero as he continues on his incredible racing journey in 2021. And stay tuned for the release of a book about his remarkable story, titled “Run With a Mighty Heart”, arriving in the coming months.