Saturday’s $200,000 Pennine Ridge (G3), a prelude to the $1.2 million Belmont Derby (G1) on July 8, has two confirmed front runners and several others hoping the nine-furlong trip will hinder those speedier rivals.
Oscar Performance, the division leader at season’s end last year following a score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), has disappointed in both starts this term. Fifth when unable to make the lead after a slow start in the Transylvania (G3), his performance on softer ground in the American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs was worse as he gave up completely and trailed the field of 10 after setting the pace.
A six-length winner in the Pilgrim (G3) at Belmont on wet ground last fall, Oscar Performance might rebound in more familiar surroundings, but will likely have to contend with Secretary At War early. The War Front colt has won two straight in wire-to-wire fashion for Jimmy Jerkens, including the $98,000 Woodhaven at Aqueduct.
Good Samaritan, a hard-luck third as the Breeders’ Cup favorite, also didn’t have the best of trips in the American Turf as he fell quite a ways off the pace. He cut the deficit down to a length at the end, but settled for second behind longshot Arklow. The Bill Mott barn has been cold to start the Belmont meet, winning with just of its first 32 starters.
Ticonderoga, farther behind Good Samaritan before rallying for fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, took the Palm Beach (G3) in his season debut but only managed a fourth in the Transylvania after a wide trip. The Chad Brown trainee does look entirely suited to the step up in distance as he presumably aims for the 10-furlong Belmont Derby.
Others to look for are the dual stakes-winning California invader Bowies Hero, nominally a deeper closer but one who figures to be closer to a pace more moderate than what’s he used to back home, and the allowance-winning Makarios, who crashed the trifecta at 38-1 in the Transylvania two back.