May 24, 2019

Oscar Performance eyes Eclipse hardware following Secretariat victory

Oscar Performance wins the Secretariat Stakes (G1) under jockey Jose Ortiz at Arlington Park on Saturday, August 12, 2017 (c) Four Footed Fotos

Oscar Performance continued to dominate the three-year-old male turf division with a win the Secretariat Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse.

His second consecutive victory in a Grade 1 race against three-year-olds on the turf raised his profile enough to leave some wondering if he’s the top three-year-old male on any surface—a question his connections seem keen to answer with a potential tilt against Grade 1 older males sooner rather than later.

“We’re thinking about the Joe Hirsch [at Belmont],” said Bob Feld, whose bloodstock agency bought Oscar Performance’s dam for owner-breeder John Amerman. “This horse might be even better at a mile-and-a-half. He does what you want then just opens up.”

A win in open company could be a deciding factor for Eclipse Award voters, as many top three-year-olds now opt to wait until the Breeders’ Cup before taking on older, and the older male “handicap” division is stronger than the turf division. Oscar Performance is one of only two multiple Grade 1-winning males this year with the other being Kentucky-Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming.

After winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year, Oscar Performance began his three-year-old campaign with a pair of defeats as the favorite, but he has since turned things around with consecutive wins in the Pennine Ridge, Belmont Derby, and today’s Secretariat.

Oscar Performance had won five of eight races lifetime, and all five wins had come gate to wire, but today jockey Jose Ortiz tracked the pace of longshot Sonic Boom before making his move on the far turn and drawing away.

“He was sitting very comfortably in second, and when I asked him to go he ran very well,” Ortiz said. “I love that [trainer] Brian [Lynch] gave me the opportunity on this horse. I’m very happy to win the race for him and the Amermans.”

Taj Mahal, winless in 6 starts this year, ran that streak to 7 when second in the Secretariat, but did stay on late to be well clear of the rest. 2nd choice Permian broke down after the finish and was euthanized.