10/01/2016 6:57PM

Oscar Performance leads all the way in Pilgrim

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Barbara D. Livingston
Oscar Performance and jockey Jose Ortiz run to a six-length victory in the Pilgrim Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Since Oscar Performance’s 10 1/4-length maiden victory in front-running fashion six weeks ago at Saratoga, trainer Brian Lynch had been training his 2-year-old colt behind horses in the morning.

Lynch will have to wait for another day to learn if Oscar Performance learned his lessons, since on Saturday he went right to the lead under Jose Ortiz and was never headed as he won the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim Stakes by six lengths at Belmont Park.

The win should send Oscar Performance to Southern California as one of the top contenders for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

“You always hope they’re not one-trick ponies when they break their maidens like that, you want to see them duplicate that race again,” Lynch said. “I think he's qualified to say he duplicated that race again. I think it was a decent little field behind him, plenty to look forward to.”

Ortiz was aboard for Oscar Performance’s most recent work, where he started behind another horse and finished very strong. Ortiz said he expected to be sitting behind two other speed horses in the Pilgrim field. He let his horse break, figuring he’d find himself behind at least one horse.

But Oscar Performance was in front through an opening quarter in 23.55 seconds and then got away with a 25.43 second quarter while still in front and in hand.

“I just don’t want him to go crazy fast in the beginning, so I try to send him and teach him at the same time because you never know when somebody’s going to go,” Ortiz said. “There were two speeds today; I break good, the two speeds didn’t show up, so it was good for us.”

Oscar Performance had a two-length lead after six furlongs in 1:12.63 and opened up from there, covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.88 over a turf course labeled yielding. Oscar Performance, owned and bred by Jerry and John Amerman, returned $5.40 as the favorite.

“The good thing about him is he can run that 23-and-change first quarter and once he clears them he tends to relax and once he got the half in almost 49 you knew he was comfortable,” Lynch said. “Unless someone put some middle pressure on him he was going to lengthen stride and go on it from there.”

J.S. Choice rallied from sixth to finish second by three-quarters of a length over Kitten’s Cat. Frostmourne, My Bo Chop, Oiseau de Guerre, Bookew Bucks and Sir Douglas completed the order of finish. Bird’s Eye View was scratched by the stewards on advice of the veterinarian after acting up in the starting gate.