Amerman Racing LLC’s Oscar Performance seized command early and played the pacemaker’s role to perfection while registering a 1 ½ length win in Saturday’s Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
With the Ricoh Woodbine Mile being part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ program, Oscar Performance earned a fees-paid berth into the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on November 3.
Trainer Brian Lynch was thrilled to add the Woodbine Mile to his list of accomplishments.
“It is a very prestigious race,” said Brian Lynch, who conditions the homebred Oscar Performance for John and Jerry Amerman. “It’s nice to be able to put your name beside it. Throughout your career, there are signature races you’d like to win and mine has always been to win the Woodbine Mile. It’s nice to accomplish that.”
Lynch applauded the ride from Oscar Performance’s regular rider Jose Ortiz.
“I thought Jose rode him beautifully and his last quarter was sensational. It’s nice to see him back and it’s a ‘Win and You’re In’ and we’ve got six weeks to the Breeders’ Cup. Now we can take a deep breath and do the best we can to have him right on that day.”
Oscar Performance, with Ortiz following Lynch’s script, took advantage of the lack of pace in the Woodbine Mile and cut out all the fractions of :24.60, :48.78 and 1:11:49 en route to a 1:33.12 final time over firm going.
“I figured with the scratching of the filly (La Sardane), he’d be the speed of the race and he looked very comfortable throughout,” said the trainer. “I talked to Jose earlier in the day and said, ‘I’m not going to tell you how to ride the race, but the only thing I can tell you is it’s a hell of a long stretch there, so be patient.’”
Ortiz, confident throughout, was pleased that Oscar Performance returned to winning form after being pulled up for precautionary reasons last time out when sent to post as the mutuel favourite in the Arlington Million.
“At the quarter pole, I saw somebody getting close to me,” said Ortiz. “But when I asked him to go, he really accelerated. He gave me a great turn of foot and he kept going.
“It’s very special. I’m very emotional right now,” continued Ortiz. “He’s my favourite horse. He gave me my first Breeders’ Cup, I’m just happy he’s back.”
Lynch watched the Woodbine Mile from Saratoga while his wife and assistant, Erin, did the honours here.
“He gave us a lot of confidence going into this race from the way he’d been working. I think Jose (Ortiz) rode him very confidently, established an early and dictated the term,” said Lynch. “I wouldn’t say he wasn’t pressured, he (Mr Havercamp) was sitting no more than three-quarters of a length off him at a real critical stage of the race, but obviously ‘Oscar’ was back on his ‘A’ game today. He gave us that signature move when he asked him to open up, and he maintained.”
Mr Havercamp, trained locally by Catherine Day Phillips, stalked Oscar Performance throughout and took a stretch-long run at the winner only to fall short under regular rider Eurico Rosa da Silva.
“I’m so proud of him,” said da Silva. “He gave it his best. We went a very slow pace for this race, but I needed to make a decision. If I pressed the pace, I would probably lose second.”
Woodbine’s leading rider, who picked up his 2000th career win in North America on Friday, never felt like he was getting to the winner.
“No, not at any point,” said da Silva. “I was hoping but I saw he had a little more horse than I did. I’m very happy to finish second.”
Stormy Antarctic, one of two English raiders in the field, tracked the pace from fourth after breaking from the outside and rallied solidly for third money, just a neck behind Mr Havercamp as a 15.40-1 chance.
“Lovely run,” said Gerald Mosse, who piloted Stormy Antarctic for trainer Ed Walker. “Not a good draw to be able to be behind the first two.
“Had an ideal scenario and was coming like he was going to do something, but the ground is a bit quick for him. If the ground was a bit on the soft side, he’d have been a solid contender. He still gave me his best, but he needed a little bit more give in the ground.”
Delta Prince, the 2.20-1 favourite, had a perfect stalking trip along the inside but failed to fire and wound up fourth, a length shy of third money.
“Really disappointing,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “He didn’t show up today for some reason. He was flat. Had a nice comfortable rhythm behind the winner, but when I asked him at the top of the stretch, he just didn’t respond.”
Divisidero, at 14-1, was within range in sixth place through the early going but had to settle for fifth money despite finishing well.
Lord Glitters, the other European in the Woodbine Mile field and the third choice at 3.35-1, trailed early and rallied late on the outside to finish sixth, beaten only four lengths for all the money.
Good Samaritan, moving back to turf after an eight-race campaign on the main track, failed to menace and finished seventh as the 6.75-1 third choice.
Vanish, the rank outsider in the field at 94.15-1, was in touch through the first three-quarters of a mile but faltered to finish last of eight.
Oscar Performance had given both Lynch and Ortiz their first Breeders’ Cup wins in the 2016 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita. The Woodbine Mile was the third Grade 1 stakes win for Oscar Performance, who was bred in Kentucky by Jerry Amerman.
Oscar Performance paid $7.70, $4.30 and $3.70. He combined with Mr Havercamp ($7.70, $5.20) for a $2 exacta worth $57. Stormy Antarctic ($7.50) completed the trifecta, which paid $293.35 for a $1 ticket, and Delta Prince rounded out the superfecta, worth $913.95 for a $1 ticket.