07/19/2017 10:36AM

Lynch goes from strength to strength

Barbara D. Livingston
Brian Lynch, here hugging Jose Ortiz after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf with Oscar Performance, won 11 races at the recently completed Belmont Park meet, and has plenty of live runners for Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In June 2016, Brian Lynch was forced to surrender his New York trainer’s license after testing positive for marijuana. Though he could run horses at other tracks in his name, he was not permitted on the grounds at Belmont Park where the bulk of his stable was based.

Ultimately, Lynch’s ban lasted three weeks before his license was reinstated by the New York Gaming Commission. Lynch said that being away from his best horses gave him a new perspective.

“It makes you realize how much you miss it,” Lynch, 53, said in a recent interview. “Something like that won’t happen again. It makes you want to come back and let the people know that’s not your title – you’re a horse trainer and you’re trying to do the best you can.”

Lynch finished 2016 very strong, including winning his first Breeders’ Cup race with Oscar Performance in the Juvenile Turf. After a slow start this year, Oscar Performance has won back-to-back graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.

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Oscar Performance provided Lynch with two of his 11 victories at the Belmont spring-summer meeting. He hopes to ride the momentum of that success into Saratoga, which begins its 40-day meet Friday. This will be Lynch’s third summer stabling at the Spa. In 2015, he won four races. In 2016, he won five.

“That’s where your owners love to run,” Lynch said. “A lot of them are there for the summer. It’s a prestigious meet. To leave there with good results and good stats, it’s always important.”

A trainer has to have good horses to get good results, and Lynch feels he might have the best group he’s had since he came to New York two years ago. Lynch hopes to get his meet off to a quick start Saturday, when he sends out the debut-winning 2-year-old Psychoanalyze in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford Stakes at six furlongs. Psychoanalyze, a son of Overanalyze, turned back a heavily favored Smash Williams when the two colts debuted June 14.

“We’re never big first time out, so when they win like that they’ve got their fair share of talent,” Lynch said. “It would be good to kick the meet off with a good performance out of him.”

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Psychoanalyze is one of many 2-year-olds Lynch hopes to run at this meet. She’s The Berries, beaten a head at Belmont on June 29 in her debut, will look to clear the maiden ranks during the meet. Gemini, a daughter of Blame, and Arch Value, a son of Arch, are unstarted maidens he hopes to unveil this summer.

While Oscar Performance is unlikely to run at Saratoga, Lynch has Unchained Melody pointed to the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 19. Unchained Melody won an allowance race and the Grade 2 Mother Goose at Belmont. Though she is nominated to Sunday’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, Lynch said he is more inclined to simply train her up to the 1 1/4-mile Alabama.

“Trying to bring her back that quick, there’s always a lot more downside than trying to train her into the Alabama,” Lynch said. “In the Mother Goose, she definitely showed she deserves the best shot we can give her going into the Alabama.”

When a trainer wins a lot of races at Belmont, it often means many of his horses have to step up a condition at Saratoga. But Lynch has some runners who still have allowance conditions left, such as Sheplaysthefield, a 3-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa who was second to the still-undefeated Downtown Mama at Belmont in May. Now In a Drive has run three good races on turf this year and could earn a maiden win here. Gio’s Calling and Stormy’s Song are others with conditions left. Meantime, eighth in the Belmont Stakes after running second in the Grade 3 Peter Pan, is still eligible for a first-level allowance race.

“I’d be disappointed if we left there not having a strong meet,” Lynch said.

What has made working this year a bit more enjoyable is that Lynch’s 16-year-old son, Nick, has shown an interest in racing and has taken on a role in the stable. Lynch’s wife, Erin Cotterill, also is his main assistant.

“Nick’s really getting into it,” Lynch said. “He goes to school in Lexington and will go to [the University of Kentucky]. He works at WinStar when he’s down in Lexington. He’s really into the horses. It’s great that we get to do it together and enjoy it.”