Bandits Heart shows the way to Dover win

Facing a salty group in his career bow, two-year-old Bandits Heart didn’t run badly but didn’t make much impact in the August 9 Hickory Tree Stakes at Colonial Downs, finishing a well-beaten sixth.

What he did gain, though, was valuable experience, and he put that on display in Thursday’s $50,000 Dover Stakes for Delaware certified two-year-olds at Delaware Park. Under new pilot Angel Cruz, Bandits Heart hit the ground running and never looked back en route to a two-length victory that provided him both his first win and first stakes win.

In that debut contest, Bandits Heart was sixth or seventh and at least a half-dozen lengths behind at every call. Cruz, taking the mount after Xavier Perez opted for 1-2 post-time favorite Riccio, was determined not to see a repeat of that today, however, and hustled his mount, drawn on the rail, from the gate.

Bandits Heart had company early, with Little J P, Dexter Haddock up, pressing just to his outside. Those two were just a half-length apart after an opener in a sharp 21.90 seconds. By that time, they’d opened up three lengths on the rest of the six-horse field.

As they neared the head of the lane, Little J P came under an increasingly vigorous ride and began to fall away. But Bandits Heart’s work was far from done: both Mean Tweets (John Hiraldo up for trainer Chelsey Moysey) and stablemate, and post-time favorite, Riccio, loomed threats.

Bandits Heart
Jockey Angel Cruz smiles after Bandits Heart won the Dover. Photo by Mike Valiante.

As the field straightened for home, though, Bandits Heart spurted three lengths clear and had plenty left to hold those two rivals at bay. Riccio, who took some time finding his best stride, poked a head in front of Mean Tweets to earn the place. Running time for 5 ½ furlongs on a fast main track was 1:04.90.

“I broke good and sharp,” said winning rider Angel Cruz.  “I settled into the lead and took a hold of him.  He was going good and when I asked him, he kept going.  John Robb told me before the race, if this horse breaks good you will be on lead and that is what happened.  We broke good, got the lead and he took care of everything.”

Bandits Heart paid $11.20 to win, and the one-dollar exacta with the favorite underneath returned $10.70.

Bandits Heart, a Maryland-bred Mosler colt, is trained by John Robb and is a homebred for his and wife Gina’s No Guts No Glory Farm. Bandits Heart is a half-brother to $800,000 earner Anna’s Bandit. The Robbs also are the connections behind General J R, who rallied from far back for fourth.

Robb also trains runner-up Riccio, for Sheffield Stable LLC. After finishing second on debut, Riccio had won two straight prior to today.