Jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Brian Lynch share an embrace after Oscar Performance’s Belmont Derby victory
Though he was favored on the morning-line, Oscar Performance went off as approximately third choice at odds of 5-1 in Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational. Despite bettors lack of faith in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner, Mrs. Jerry Amerman’s homebred took the lead out of the gate and never relinquished it under Jose Ortiz, crossing the wire about two lengths in front of Called to the Bar. Trained by Brian Lynch, the 3-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy covered 1 1/4 miles over Belmont’s firm turf course in 2:00.25.
Lynch had given excuses for Oscar Performance’s first two starts of 2017, saying that the colt was not quite fit when fifth in Keenland’s G3 Transylvania in April, and adding that the soft turf at Churchill Downs had contributed to his 10th-place effort in the G2 American Turf. Oscar Performance had rebounded well to win the G3 Pennine Ridge in his most recent outing, but bettors still weren’t sure the colt could hold the lead all the way through 1 1/4 miles over such strong company.
Nonetheless Ortiz sent Oscar Performance out to the lead, and the pair were hounded all the way by Big Score just a half-length back in second. Through fractions of :23.96 and :49.48, while favorite Yoshida tracked the pace in a joint third position with Called to the Bar. Behind them were the Aidan O’Brien pair of Whitecliffsofdover and Homesman in the center of a well-bunched field of 11 sophomore colts.
Oscar Performance got a bit of a breather to mark three-quarters in 1:14.37, though he was still pressured by Big Score just near his hip. Yoshida had come up three-wide to be a half-length back in third, and Called to the Bar was waiting for room at the rail.
“When he broke I tad slow and he [Jose Ortiz] urged him a little bit to run up there and I saw the 23 [seconds] and change, I thought, I hope it doesn’t turn into one of these sort of deals,” said Lynch. “When the 49 and change came up, I started to grin a little bit and when I saw the 1:14 and change come up, I broke into a big smile. When he inched away from them in the lane, I could see they were all throwing leather behind him. I thought he’s going to be tough to catch from here. He proved he can get the mile and a quarter and I think he beat a quality field of horses today.”
Calling on his colt, Ortiz gave Oscar Performance the signal turning for home. He responded enthusiastically, bounding away from the field by two lengths and maintaining that advantage all the way through the stretch. Called to the Bar was best of the rest, with Homesman and Good Samaritan up to fill out the superfecta ahead of Yoshida.
“He broke slow and I had to chase him the first quarter of a mile, but then in the backside he relaxed real well,” Ortiz said. “I backed the pace down a little and he was full of run when I asked him to go.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owner, Oscar Performance is out of a stakes-winning daughter of Theatrical named Devine Actress. The colt broke his maiden second time out at Saratoga, then captured the G3 Pilgrim en route to his Breeders’ Cup triumph. Overall, Oscar Performance has a record of five wins from eight starts, with earnings of over $ 1.5 million.
Watch the race replay here:
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2017 Paulick Report.