11/04/2016 6:50PM

Oscar Performance takes a bow in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf

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Barbara D. Livingston
Oscar Performance, ridden by Jose Ortiz, wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf by 1 1/4 lengths Friday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Oscar Performance acted like a good horse from the time he was broken to saddle, and on Friday at Santa Anita, he was the leading man in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, tracking the pacesetting Wellabled, bursting to the front, and going on to a 1 1/4-length win over Lancaster Bomber and a tough-luck Good Samaritan.

It was a first Breeders’ Cup victory for both trainer Brian Lynch and jockey Jose Ortiz. “Just absolutely thrilled as I am for my first Breeders’ Cup, I’m thrilled to have done it with Jose,” said Lynch.

Oscar Performance, by Kitten’s Joy and out of the Theatrical mare Devine Actress, had shown ability from the time he was broken as a yearling in Florida by Barry Berkelhammer.

“He came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got one special horse,’ and that was a long time ago,” said John Amerman, who owns Oscar Performance with his wife, Jerry, Oscar Performance’s breeder.

Oscar Performance needed one race to show his talent, however, finishing fifth in a somewhat-troubled debut July 23 at Saratoga. “We probably did expect a little more of him first time out,” said Lynch. “He was a victim of circumstance. But he damn sure was ready second time out.”

Indeed, Oscar Performance won his second start, a Saratoga turf-route maiden, by more than 10 lengths, and he followed that with a six-length win in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont, his last race before the Juvenile Turf. Oscar Performance led all the way in both races, but Lynch believed his horse would rate off the pace, and with the fast stretch-out sprinter Wellabled in the field, Ortiz was able to settle into a perfect pressing trip Friday. As Wellabled set fractions of 22.30 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 45.88 to the half, Ortiz and Oscar Performance were perched just outside, waiting to pounce.

“Me and Brian talked about it, and it worked just like we wanted to,” said Ortiz, who is in the midst of a breakout season. “When I passed the half-mile going to the three-eighths pole, I felt like I had a lot of horse under me. I just waited a little more because no one was pressing me. I knew the horse in front of me was a sprinter. I knew sooner or later he’d come back to me.”

Oscar Performance had the lead turning for home, and despite the fast pace, he rattled off a final quarter-mile in 23.84 seconds, too good for anyone to catch him. He stopped the timer in 1:33.28 for one mile on firm turf and paid $15.20 to win.

Lancaster Bomber got second by a neck over Good Samaritan. They were followed by Ticonderoga, Big Score, Made You Look, Channel Maker, Keep Quiet, Intelligence Cross, Wellabled, Bowies Hero, Favorable Outcome, J. S. Choice, and Rodaini.

Lancaster Bomber, in from Ireland for trainer Aidan O’Brien, broke decently from post 1 but lacked the pace to get up into the pocket before the first turn and wound up getting shuffled back into midpack. He launched a bid between horses past the three-furlong pole and finished well for his second straight runner-up finish in a top-level race.

“He ran a great race,” said jockey Seamie Heffernan. “With a little bit more luck, I think I’m as good as the winner. He’s a bit inexperienced. I was drawn 1, and I wasn’t as quick away as the American horses.”

Good Samaritan surely ran at least as well as the winner in finishing third. Breaking from post 11 under Joel Rosario, he was away decently and tucked over in the tail third of the field, traveling decently into the first turn, but J. S. Choice came out in front of him just as Good Samaritan was leaning into the bend, and Good Samaritan (as with Rodaini outside him) lost his grip on the turn, floating very wide, dropping to the back of the field, and losing precious position. Caught wide on the second turn, he came with a long, sustained bid in a very encouraging performance.

As for the winner, who races without Lasix, he has made his last start of 2016, said Lynch, and with a turf pedigree, there’s no thought of trying him on dirt. A trip to Royal Ascot next year was mentioned as a possibility, but for now, a winter break looms. And after that, on to Act 2 for Oscar Performance.