04/05/2017 12:10PM

Oscar Performance brings act to Transylvania

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Barbara D. Livingston
Oscar Performance will make his first start Friday since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Oscar Performance has a flair for the dramatic. After winning a Breeders’ Cup race last fall, the Amerman Racing homebred returns some five months later to another big stage when he helps to open the Keeneland spring meet Friday.

Oscar Performance, with Jose Ortiz to ride, figures very much as the horse to catch when he makes his eagerly awaited comeback in the opening-day feature, the Grade 3, $150,000 Transylvania Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Despite the layoff since Oscar Performance captured the Nov. 4 BC Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, trainer Brian Lynch believes the ridgling has been given sufficient preparation to win right back. Nine workouts at the Palm Meadows training center followed a 60-day break.

“My horse is doing great, and I can’t make any excuses for him,” said Lynch.

None of his eight rivals has the kind of early speed that makes Oscar Performance a real danger on the lead. In the Breeders’ Cup, he was in close attendance throughout before spurting clear in midstretch and holding on by 1 1/4 lengths. Nonetheless, Lynch is taking nothing for granted.

“It is a solid field and a good group of trainers that know how to get a horse ready,” he said.

Foremost among the opposition is Ticonderoga, whose victory last out in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park suggests he’ll be a major player in the 3-year-old turf division this year. Ticonderoga lagged well back early in the BC Juvenile Turf before firing hard down the stretch to finish fourth.

“He’s one of those horses that really seems to have matured from 2 to 3,” said trainer Chad Brown.

Other considerations in this 29th running of the Transylvania include Big Score, a California shipper making his first start since finishing fifth in the BC Juvenile Turf, and Sonic Boom and Profiteer, the one-two finishers in the Columbia Stakes on the Tampa Bay Derby card.

The Transylvania, named for the 237-year-old university in downtown Lexington, is carded as the ninth of 10 opening-day races at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

KEY CONTENDERS

Oscar Performance, by Kitten’s Joy

Last 3 Beyers: 93-90-80

◗ His Breeders’ Cup score was widely regarded as no fluke, as it followed eye-catching romps in a Saratoga maiden race and the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park, both in front-running style.

Ticonderoga, by Tapit

Last 3 Beyers: 87-85-75

◗ An unlucky runner-up here last fall as an odds-on favorite in the Grade 3 Bourbon, he’s now had the benefit of a race under his belt this year and could loom large late under jockey Joel Rosario.

Sonic Boom, by More Than Ready

Last 3 Beyers: 87-83-74

◗ Ian Wilkes thought enough of this handy colt to send him west last fall to try to make the Breeders’ Cup cut (he didn’t), and a couple of solid efforts this winter have validated that confidence.

Big Score, by Mr. Big

Last 3 Beyers: 84-84-80

◗ Trained by Tim Yakteen for owner and breeder George Krikorian, this late-running colt shows nine works at Santa Anita since mid-February in training for this return.