December 6, 2021

Ortiz’s supporting role earns Oscar Performance victory in the Woodbine Mile

Jockey Jose Ortiz celebrates as Oscar Performance is led into the Woodbine winner's circle after wiring the Woodbine Mile (G1) on September 15, 2018 (c) Photo courtesy of Woodbine Twitter

Every quarter of Oscar Performance’s gate-to-wire victory in Saturday’s $637,977 Woodbine Mile (Can-G1) at Woodbine was faster than the previous one, a strategy drawn up by assistant trainer Erin Lynch and executed perfectly by jockey Jose Ortiz.

“He’s my favorite horse,” Ortiz said. “He gave me my first Breeders’ Cup (in the 2016 Juvenile Turf [G1]); I’m just happy he’s back.”

Ortiz may get a chance at another Breeders’ Cup win aboard Oscar Performance, as the Woodbine Mile is a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), offering an all-fees paid berth to that November 3 affair at Churchill Downs.

Oscar Performance’s :24.60 first quarter in the Woodbine Mile allowed both Lynch and her charge to relax. It has been an emotional five weeks in which the colt she described as a barn favorite failed to finish in the Arlington Million (G1) last out on August 11.

“To have such high expectations in a race like that for a horse everyone loves, to come off the track like that was heartbreaking,” Lynch said. “By the time we got back to the barn, we were shaken up, but he walked fine with no stress, and we knew he’d be OK.”

So OK, in fact, that the connections decided to run Oscar Performance back five weeks later in the Woodbine Mile, where he was a no-doubt-about-it winner following that opening quarter.

“The trip was very well ridden by Ortiz,” Lynch said. “Before La Sardane scratched, our plan was to sit off her if she went, but once she was out we changed tactics and wanted the lead, and it worked.”

Local hero Mr Havercamp sat about a length off Oscar Performance through the half in :48.78, before inching within a half-length by the time his rival clocked six furlongs in 1:11.49. Once straightened for home, however, Oscar Performance kicked on in :21.63 to hold Mr Havercamp at bay and score the 1 ½-length victory. It was a neck farther back to third-placer Stormy Antarctic.

“At the quarter-pole, I saw somebody getting close to me, but when I asked him to go, he really accelerated,” Ortiz said. “He gave me a great turn of foot and he kept going.”

Delta Prince, the 2-1 favorite, was closer than usual but could not make up ground in the stretch and finished fourth.

“He didn’t show up today for some reason,” said Javier Castellano, who piloted Delta Prince. “He was flat today. When I asked him at the top of the stretch, he just didn’t respond today.”

Lynch said Oscar Performance would train up to the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The barn also has Heart to Heart for the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) on October 6 at Keeneland, yet another “Win & You’re In” contest for the Mile.

“(Trainer) Brian (Lynch) doesn’t want to hook Heart to Heart so this schedule makes sense,” Lynch said. “We’ll have some easy breezes and then really tighten the screws closer to the race.”

The Lynches train Oscar Performance for the Amerman Family stable. The Kitten’s Joy four-year-old will stand at Mill Ridge Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, next year. Thus far, he’s racked up $2,345,696 in earnings to go along with a 14-8-0-1 career mark that now includes four Grade 1 scores.