There was no more fitting presence on the worktab in advance of the Feb. 26 Academy Awards than that of Amerman Racing's homebred Oscar Performance. In his quest to reassert himself as a divisional leader, the ridgling son of Kitten's Joy turned in a sparkling effort Feb. 24, when he worked four furlongs in :47 2/5 over the main track at Palm Meadows Training Center.
The second fastest of 49 moves at the distance represented the fourth timed outing for Oscar Performance this year as he readies for his first start since his triumph in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita Park. According to trainer Brian Lynch, his first 2017 start is likely to come in the Transylvania Presented by Keeneland Select Stakes (G3T) on the opening day of Keeneland's spring meet April 7.
"He's in very good order," Lynch said. "We gave him 60 days off after the Breeders' Cup and ... he seems to have matured a bit both physically and mentally. We're excited about where he is at at this stage. If he keeps developing in the direction he's taking us, there is nothing but upside to him.
"We're hoping we'll be in the big dances by the end of the year."
Since finishing sixth in his debut at Saratoga Race Course in July, Oscar Performance has made that effort look like an aberration. His gate-to-wire, 10 1/4-length maiden score Aug. 20 was backed up with an equally facile six-length win in the Oct. 1 Pilgrim Stakes (G3T) at Belmont Park. Were it a lesser year among the 2-year-old dirt males, Oscar Performance's 1 1/4 length Breeders' Cup victory would have likely been enough to make him an Eclipse Award finalist for divisional acclaim.
"I wasn't surprised," Lynch said of Oscar Performance not being a finalist for champion 2-year-old male. "You always hope that a horse who sort of dominated his category would get a little bit of a mention there but you know, I always felt the grass horses play second fiddle a bit when it comes to those awards."
Lynch in particular knows his way around a good turf horse, with multiple graded stakes winner Heart to Heart and grade 1 victor Grand Arch among those in his care who may end up having to fend off their younger stablemate before year's end.
Heart to Heart, fourth last time out in the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 14, is slated to return in the Canadian Turf (G3T) March 4, while Grand Arch, winner of the 2015 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1T), is being freshened for a return in the second half of the year.
"He's getting legged up at Margaux Farm in Kentucky," Lynch said of Grand Arch, who has not raced since finishing ninth in the 2016 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1T) in October. "He's a late-summer horse."
Lynch added that Lightstream, winner of the Oct. 22 Lexus Raven Run Stakes (G2), is another of his likely to make her seasonal debut during the Keeneland meet. The daughter of Harlan's Holiday recently returned to the worktab after running fifth in the Dec. 26 La Brea Stakes (G1).