Oscar Performance rides into Saturday’s $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) the leader among three-year-old turf specialists, and will look to put his stamp of authority on older rivals as well in the “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Turf (G1).
After two early-season setbacks in the Transylvania (G3) and American Turf (G2), Oscar Performance has reeled off consecutive wins in the Pennine Ridge (G3), Belmont Derby (G1), and Secretariat (G1), the latter two over 1 1/4 miles. Trainer Brian Lynch is confident the son of 2004 Turf Classic winner Kitten’s Joy can get the extra quarter-mile on Saturday.
“If they’re bred to get the mile and a half, they’ll get it. It’s all about the pace scenario,” Lynch said. “If he’s able to sit on comfortable fractions, he’ll give you that good quarter-mile kick. Fortunately enough, we know he has a good kick and tactically, he’s a nice forwardly placed horse. If there’s no pace in the race, he’s going to have a nice kick when they start sprinting. He seems to appreciate firm turf, so that can be in his favor, too.”
Trainer Chad Brown has entered three, including Arlington Million (G1) scorer Beach Patrol. Also a horse that likes to show early foot, Beach Patrol ran the Million three-fifths of a second slower than Oscar Performance’s clocking in the Secretariat on the same August 12 card at Arlington.
Brown will also saddle Money Multiplier, fourth in last year’s Turf Classic on yielding ground but winner of the Monmouth (G2) and second to Sadler’s Joy in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), and Fanciful Angel, who joined the stable following his close second-place effort to Beach Patrol in the Million.
“Since he’s come over to us, he’s training well. I like him more and more each week I see him,” Brown said of Fanciful Angel. “The mile and a half is a question mark for him, if he can stay that far. But I think it’s worth a shot.”
In addition to Sadler’s Joy, a two-time graded stakes winner at the distance this year, the Turf Classic has also attracted the Graham Motion-trained Ascend and Mekhtaal. Ascend upset the Manhattan (G1) over a mile and a quarter in June, and last time was a rallying fifth in the Million after a slow start. French Group 1 winner Mekhtaal was expected to be a leading contender in the Million, but showed little finishing 10th.
Dual Group 1 winner The Grey Gatsby, a former highweight in England, France, and Ireland, has placed just once in nine starts over the past two seasons.
The $200,000 Pilgrim (G3), won last year by Oscar Performance en route to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), attracted eight two-year-olds to go 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf. Last-out maiden winners Voting Control and Maraud figure to take significant support. The maiden Seabhac, fourth in the With Anticipation (G3) last time, could improve with the addition of blinkers.