06/03/2017 6:08PM

Oscar Performance regains his form in Pennine Ridge Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Oscar Performance paid $9.80 in winning the Pennine Ridge Stakes on Saturday at Belmont.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Jose Ortiz took it as a positive sign when Oscar Performance began acting up a little in his two most recent workouts. To him, it was reminiscent of the way the horse acted last year when he won multiple graded stakes, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.

Ortiz said he had not felt that same energy from Oscar Performance in two losses to begin his 3-year-old campaign. That included a last-place finish in the Grade 2 American Turf over soft ground at Churchill Downs last month.

The attitude - and form - Oscar Performance showed as 2-year-old was back on display Saturday as he recorded a front-running, 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont Park.

“When he won the Breeders’ Cup he was a horse that was jumpy and a little bit nervous and last couple of races he’d been quiet and I didn’t like it,” Ortiz said.

“Last week, when I worked him on the grass, he was jumpy and he was jumping around going back to the barn and when I entered the barn he was jumping like he was ready to roll. I really liked that.”

In the race, Ortiz had to like that he was able to get away with a half-mile in 49.94 seconds and six furlongs in 1:14.74, while maintaining a one-length lead over the projected other speed horse, Secretary At War.

Approaching the top of the stretch, Secretary At War got to the throatlatch of Oscar Performance. Turning for home, Ortiz hit Oscar Performance once left handed, and he began to spurt away from the field. Good Samaritan, the 4-5 favorite who was about five lengths off the pace down the backside, swung wide turning for home and closed strong to get second over Ticonderoga, who closed from last for third. Bowies Hero was fourth followed by Muggsamatic, Makarios and Secretary At War.

“They let me go a little bit easy the first part of the race, but the second part of the race they made me go on and my horse responded pretty well,” Ortiz said. “When I hit him left-handed he really kicked in.”

Oscar Performance, a son of Kitten’s Joy owned by John and Jerry Amerman and trained by Brian Lynch, covered the 1 1/8 miles over firm turf in 1:48.44 and returned $9.80 as the second choice.

“I think he got some relatively kind fractions that if he was back to his best, he was going to quicken off them and he did,” Lynch said. “I think he really finished nice.”

That nice finish gives Lynch confidence to try and stretch Oscar Performance out to 1 1/4 miles in the $1.2 million Belmont Derby on July 8.

“He got the mile and an eighth today and there’s no reason to say that he won’t get the mile and a quarter,” Lynch said.

Bill Mott, the trainer of Good Samaritan, felt the slow early pace compromised his colt’s chances.

“It looked like there were two horses that would show some speed and nobody really showed any,” Mott said.

In the Belmont Derby, Mott may run Yoshida and Good Samaritan against Oscar Performance.