Oscar Performance produced a winning one in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf assisted by outstanding direction from his jockey Jose Ortiz (pictured) at Santa Anita on November 4. It was a first Breeders’ Cup win for both Ortiz and the 7/1 shot’s trainer Brian Lynch.
Lynch thought that it was really special not only to achieve it, but to do so with Jose. It was Ortiz’s third consecutive victory on Oscar Performance and the highlight of his breakout season.
For Oscar Performance’s owners and breeders, it was a long-awaited second Breeders’ Cup victory. The Amermans won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at the same track way back in 2003 with the 40/1 shot Adoration trained by David Hofmans.
Jerry Amerman admitted that she was much more nervous this time and more emotional as she bred the colt herself. Her husband John was full of praise for Lynch’s handling of their colt.
The European shipper, Lancaster Bomber (9/1), was beaten a length and a quarter into second closely followed by the 5/2 favorite, the Bill Mott-trained Good Samaritan, in third. Both colts had their chances challenged by the hustle and bustle of a field of 14, especially the favorite.
Lynch and Ortiz had made a plan for the race that worked perfectly. Ortiz had aimed to get right behind the speed and managed to circumnavigate the field and take second place by the bend. Oscar Performance had been drawn wide but broke well making Ortiz’s task pretty easy. In their two previous wins they had set the pace but this was a field that included the capable sprinter, Wellabled, who was a confirmed front runner.
Trained by Larry Rivelli, Wellabled had won over five and seven furlongs but was not expected to deliver over this distance, starting at odds of 33/1. Wellabled outpaced the field and took the lead before the first bend as predicted.
The front of the pack was definitely the best place to be as there were some ugly scenes further back. Some horses had to be checked when short of space and Good Samaritan’s chances were wrecked when he ran ridiculously wide for no obvious reason.
Good Samaritan’s jockey, Joel Rosario, admitted afterwards that he thought the horse in front of him had clipped heels, justifying his dramatic evasive action. ‘Good Samaritan’ was anything but to the UK-trained 16/1 long shot Rodaini racing wide of him. Rosario’s change of course forced him to take an even longer route.
Whilst nightmares were experienced by many, at the head of affairs Wellabled enjoyed himself out in front setting strong fractions running the first quarter in 22.30. Oscar Performance looked pretty relaxed running beside him in second with Channel Maker half a length behind him in third. Lancaster Bomber was kept tight to the rail in the middle of the pack whilst Good Samaritan was three wide with only two horses behind him.
A near record time of 45.88 was set for the half mile. Florent Geroux had to push Keep Quiet to maintain his fourth place on the rail. As they approached the top of the stretch all the jockeys had to get active except Ortiz. He eased Oscar Performance into the lead as Wellabled cried enough.
Rosario knew that his talented colt had a very tough task ahead of him and had started pushing Good Samaritan before the final turn. The colt showed his quality by responding courageously but he had to gallop hard round most of the field to get a look at the winner’s hindquarters in the stretch.
Bettors who thought that Good Samaritan was the best horse in the race probably thought that their opinion was justified even though he finished third. To lose that much ground and finish close to the winner on the wire was some achievement.
Lancaster Bomber was unable to make the most of his draw from gate one and also had a difficult journey through the race. Trained in Ireland by Aidan O’Brien, he broke like a European-trained horse, more slowly than the US colts. He had a wall of horses in front of him at the first bend that shuffled him back in the pack.
Lancaster Bomber proved that he was a typical son of War Front by producing one of his best performances on the firm ground. He had to weave his way round weakening horses in the stretch. His jockey Seamie Heffernan was delighted with his run but thought that he might have done better if he had had more luck. It was a great performance for O’Brien’s second string who had only won once before, in a maiden in August in Ireland.
Lancaster Bomber’s more strongly fancied stablemate Intelligence Cross (11/2), another son of War Front, ridden by O’Brien’s first jockey was disappointing. He was always towards the back of the pack and although he ran on late, he never looked likely to trouble the winner. Intelligence Cross eventually finished ninth beaten seven lengths.
One commentator remarked that this was a race won in the first two furlongs rather than the stretch. He was absolutely correct.
Barry Berkelhammer who broke Oscar Performance in Florida as a yearling told the Amermans that their Theatrical mare, Devine Actress, had produced something special. Lynch had thought that this son of Kitten’s Joy was exceptional for a long time. They were right too.
After the colt was beaten on his debut run under Joel Rosario’s guidance he went on to win a maiden at Saratoga by over 10 lengths ridden by Ortiz. Ortiz must have been impressed by Oscar Performance’s six-length victory when he rode him in his next race at Belmont Park in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes in October.
Oscar Performance could be looking to achieve another one next year. The Amermans are hoping that he can fulfil their dream by being a leading man at Royal Ascot 2017 in England.