OSCAR PERFORMANCE powers away from Canadian/Ontario bred and sired MR HAVERCAMP in the Woodbine Mile


(Saturday, Woodbine only)
104 – Oscar Performance
104 – Starship Jubilee
103 – Yorkton
99 – Johnny Bear


We racing fans and handicappers are sometimes an inside-the-box thinking group.

Here was OSCAR PERFORMANCE (Kitten’s Joy – Devine Actress by Theatrical)  at Woodbine for the $800,000 Woodbine Mile, a multiple Grade 1 winner who had just run a 1:31 1/5 mile at Belmont but then had that “pulled up” line from his last race.

It was the Arlington Million where Oscar Performance broke awkwardly, raced very wide for half the race while pressing the pace. He got swarmed in the stretch run and jockey Jose Ortiz reported that he took a couple of bad steps so he pulled him up as “precautionary measure.” The colt was vanned off as a precaution.

In the days after, following a head-to-toe scan and a lot of poking and podding, the Brian Lynch trainee was sent back to Saratoga and he put in three stellar workouts.

While all of this information were readily available on various platforms it was surprising that so few longtime racing people did not know what to think of that last race or of Oscar.

Well, Jerry Amermman and his buddy Joe showed them, cantering along early in the 8 horse field and then surging clear of Canadian Mr Havercamp to win with ease.

Mr Havercamp, who tracked Oscar Performance and also took advantage of the slow pace, stayed on gamely to hold 2nd over Stormy Antarctic who ran big for be 3rd.

The time of 1:33.12 meant Oscar came his last 2 furlongs in 21 4/5, stunning.

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.”

It was such a hot and sticky day that many, many horses, invaders included, got sweaty and unraveled. Lord Glitters was quite hot before the Mile and the slow pace certainly didn’t help.

Oscar’s performance was one of 5 exciting stakes races with longshots taking over the headlines.

After favoured MOONLIT PROMISE won the Sweet Briar Too overnight Stakes for Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Windsor Boys, things got a bit wild.

YORKTON, ridden by Jesse Campbell for Chiefswood Stables, sizzled 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15 to win the Grade 3 Bold Venture. It was the first win in a year for the Speightstown 4yo colt who is trained by Stuart Simon – PHOTO BY MARTY

STARSHIP JUBILEE, last year’s champion turf female in Canada owned by Soli Mehta and partner and trained by Kevin Attard, blew by a pair of Chad Brown trainees to win the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes. That would not have been a surprise last year when she was winning the Nassau and Dance Smartly Stakes but this year the 5-year-old mare was 4th in the Nassau and 6th in the Dance Smartly. She won an optional claiming race a month ago to get back on track but did not look up to the task. But on a day when Luis Contreras ruled the jockeys roost with wins in this race and the Northern Dancer Stakes, Ms Jubilee flew past to win big at ‘about’ 1 1/8 miles which went in a sharp 1:42.91 (just 4/100s off  the course record).

The next 2 stakes races were a major contrast as far as how 2 of the most popular horses at Woodbine fared.

PINK LLOYD, Horse of the Year and back on a winning streak after a stunning loss in the Shepperton Stakes at 1 to 10 in July, was even money in the Bold Venture Stakes, a race he did not compete in last year. In fact, it was just 2 weeks since Lloyd had been all out to win the Kenora Yearling Sales Stakes over stablemate Circle of Friends, far from the ability of Lloyd.

Pink Lloyd also had a fast 3 furlong workout in the 2 weeks since that hard Kenora run and it was interesting that so many horses entered the Bold Venture (9 total in field). A fussy guy at the gate, Pink Lloyd broke through the stalls before the race, dropped Eurico Da Silva and ran off a bit before he was apprehended.

The gelding was put back in the gate, hopped at the start, was outrun by the fleet Yorkton early and faded to 5th beaten 7 lengths.

While a vet check said all was ok with Pink Lloyd, surely fans were deserving of a chance to cancel their bets on Pink Lloyd. The incident was covered throughout the U.S. in the LA TimesDRF, and TDN.

Jaws dropped again one race later but there were smiles all around as Canadian/Ontario bred JOHNNY BEAR, a laid back, cool dude who was Canada’s champion Turf Male in 2017, roared up the rail to win his second straight Northern Dancer Stakes, Grade 1, for John Brnjas, master of Colebrook Farm and Danny Dion’s Bear Stables.

Laid back JOHNNY BEAR – photo by MARTY

JOHNNY BEAR and Luis Contreras took advantage of a hot pace as European Hawkbill battled Tiz a Slam and both folded. Johnny Bear was coming off that controversial 2nd place finish in the Halton Stakes when he was interfered with by winner English Illusion. That result is in the appeal process.

The popular Brnjas, who celebrated the victory with wife Carol and a collection of friends and family, is a 40-year veteran of racing in Ontario. He is an owner, breeder and has one of the biggest stallion stations in the country.

“It’s a love affair this game,” said Brnjas, whose daughter, trainer Ashlee, watched from home as she has been battling an illness this summer.

Mile day was a big betting day once again at Woodbine – $13,000,000, making for a $19,000,000 two days of racing –  but with the big money coming from on off-track wagering as the on-track handle reportedly took a significant hit.

The racing was spectacular, the weather hot and it will be fun to track these horses as they head to various races in the Nov. 2 and 3 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

On the not-so-great side there was the mishap by Pink Lloyd that has left a mark. Also It was disappointing that there was essentially no sound outside at the track – with a big crowd at Woodbine the low level that Robert Geller’s race calls was on made it impossible to hear. Races actually went off and tables of fans had no clue a race was running.



LA PELOSA (IRE) – GODOLPHIN’s fab filly goes to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile filly Turf as a favourite after sizzling NatALma Stakes win – JULIE WRIGHT PHOTO

The day after the Woodbine Mile, Godolphin’s exciting filly La Pelosa (Ire) shipped in from England for trainer Charles Appleby and swept to an impressive win in the $250,000 Natalma Stakes (Can-1T), another Win and You’re in Event on a huge weekend of racing at Woodbine.

A bay 2-year-old filly with long, ground devouring strides, settled far off the hot pace set by Gary Barber’s Eyeinthesky, split fillies one path off the rail into the stretch and charged to a one-length victory over Woodbine stakes winner My Gal Betty, owned by William Werner and trained by Roger Attfield.

La Pelosa’s time for the one-mile on firm turf was 1:33.70,a shade faster than the colts travelled the same distance in the Summer Stakes (Can-1T) later on the card.

La Pelosa, an Irish-bred by Dandy Man (Ire), a speedy stakes winner in Europe, from the mare Lauren’s Girl (Ire) by Bushranger (Ire) was purchased by Godolphin for 280,000 guineas ($420,126) from this April’s Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale.

In the Grade 1 Summer Stakes it was American invader Fog of War, owned by Peter Bran and trained by Chad Brownt, who earned the fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with his late surge to collar Gary Barber’s War of Will. Both colts are son of Kentucky stallion War Front.

Making his second career start following a smart debut victory at Saratoga at 5 ½ furlongs on turf on Aug. 13, Fog of War was a $400,00 yearling purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.