Multiple Grade 1 hero OSCAR PERFORMANCE returned to his winning ways while making his four-year-old debut on Sunday in the $300,000 Poker Stakes (G3) over Belmont Park’s firm turf. In the process, the bay ridgling broke a 20-year old track record.
With jockey Jose Ortiz aboard, Oscar Performance bided his time in midpack as Black Tide led the way through swift splits of :22.11 and :44.73. The leader began fading after such fast early fractions and Voodoo Song took over through six furlongs in 1:08.36.
Meanwhile, Oscar Performance was making his move, swinging four wide on the final turn and setting his sights on Voodoo Song. He grabbed control in the lane and pulled off for the 1 1/2-length score while stopping the clock in 1:31.23, a new record for a mile on the Widener Turf course.
Elusive Quality set the old record of 1:31.63 in the Poker on July 4, 1998. The new time also ties with the world record time established by Mandurah on June 6, 2010 at Monmouth Park.
Sent off the 3-1 second choice, Oscar Performance paid $8.10 as the second choice. Made You Look rallied for second, a length in front of Voodoo Song on the wire. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Fire Away, who was followed home by 2-1 favorite Ballagh Rocks, Force the Pass, Black Tide and Vulcan’s Forge.
Campaigned by Amerman Racing LLC, Oscar Performance added a sixth graded score to his resume, which already boasts the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), Secretariat Stakes (G1) and Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) from last year and the 2016 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Pilgrim Stakes (G3). He also ran third in last season’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) before closing out his sophomore campaign with a fading ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Not seen in competition since that November 4 contest, the Brian Lynch trainee returned here to improve his career record to 12-7-0-1, $1,967,632.
Bred in Kentucky by Mrs. Jerry Amerman, Oscar Performance is out of the stakes-winning Theatrical mare Devine Actress. He is a full brother to multiple Grade 3-scoring millionaire Oscar Nominated, and this female family also includes Grade 1 hero and multi-millionaire Dramatic Gold.
Jose Ortiz, jockey Oscar Performance, winner
“All the credit to (trainer) Brian (Lynch). I was working him, but he had him ready. Today, he said go a little faster and his last work, he told me to do a nice steady job. He was on point and ready to roll today. I’m so happy that he’s back. He’s one of my favorite horses. I won my first Breeders’ Cup on him. I’m very emotional right now.”
Brian Lynch, trainer Oscar Performance, winner
“Great performance. Absolutely thrilled with his comeback effort. He did it with authority and came back with a very fast time. That’s a longstanding track record to break so to have him do that off the layoff makes you look forward to the rest of the year. I thought they were cooking early and he was in a good location. (Jockey) Jose (Ortiz) got him to the outside and as they rounded the turn it looked like he was moving and he’s such a talented horse.
“We’ve taken our time with him and good horses overcome a lot of things and he overcame the layoff today and was ready to run a very spectacular race. We’re lucky enough, we know he can go a bit further, but the mile is a distance he’s very quick at so it’s probably something we will concentrate on.”