Oscar Performance gives another star turn in Pilgrim

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

October 1st, 2016

Amerman Racing’s homebred Oscar Performance, who stamped himself a hot prospect in a 10-length tour de force at Saratoga, confirmed that impression with another front-running rout in Saturday’s $200,000 Pilgrim (G3) at Belmont Park. The Brian Lynch pupil will rate as one of the leading contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) – possibly even the top domestic hope at Santa Anita.

Although achieved with the same tactics over 1 1/16 miles, his two dominant victories took place in starkly different conditions. The maiden win came on the Spa’s firm inner turf, where he got away with a pedestrian six-furlong split in 1:14.04 before accelerating. Oscar Performance reeled off his fourth quarter in :23.01, and last sixteenth in :5.84, to finish in 1:42.89.

The Pilgrim, however, was contested over a yielding inner course at Belmont, not conducive to blistering times. Oscar Performance’s first half was comparable to his maiden fractions, but he carved out a far stronger third quarter in :23.65 to clock six furlongs in 1:12.63. By injecting pace at that point, on a very demanding surface, he would have been entitled to get a little leg-weary. Instead, the son of Kitten’s Joy kept on powering to reach the mile in 1:36.60 and polish off his last sixteenth in :6.28.  His final time was a nearly identical 1:42.88, and he crossed the wire six lengths clear.

The closers never had a chance to get involved with a pacesetter finishing that strongly on rain-softened ground. J. S. Choice got up for second, while third-placer Kitten’s Cat deserves credit for rallying from last – as many as 11 lengths behind – to take third. Frostmourne had trouble early and wound up fourth, while My Bo Chop, who pressed Oscar Performance early, faded to fifth.

Oiseau de Guerre couldn’t gain any traction on the ground, and wasn’t helped by having to tap on the brakes and alter course to the inside down the lane. This sixth-place effort isn’t indicative of his ability. Give the well-related son of War Front another chance on firm turf.

Oscar Performance, a full brother to current Spiral (G3) and Dueling Grounds Derby hero Oscar Nominated, has now bankrolled $170,132 from his 3-2-0-0 line.

Quotes from Belmont

Jockey Jose Ortiz on Oscar Performance: "He broke his maiden on the lead. I was a little worried about the other two speeds in the race, but I did my planning, and that was to break well and see what happens."

"As soon as he [took] the lead, he relaxed very well. I didn't push him a lot today. When we entered the stretch, I knew that I was going to open up and that I had a lot of horse. He started playing a little, so I had to crack and ride. When I hit him left handed, he took off."

Trainer Brian Lynch: "You hope that he wasn't going to get pressured. Today, he got a nice first quarter and then he was able to relax. When I saw the second-quarter come up 48-and-change for the half, I knew he found his stride and he's just comfortable going and he'd be hard to catch from there.

"Jose obviously gets along with him real well. You always hope that these maiden winners aren't one-trick ponies and you hope they can duplicate it, which he did today.

"I don't make excuses for him. I think he'd run on broken glass, he's a tough bugger. I didn't think the cut in the ground would be a big deal. As long as it's on turf, he could handle whatever you throw at him.

"I think it was a decent field behind him, so there's plenty to look forward to. I'd certainly say he's on the wagon headed that way [the Breeders' Cup]."


Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Joe Labozzetta