Amerman Racing's homebred Oscar Performance once again showed his top class against grade 1 competition from across the world Aug. 12, with a convincing victory in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (G1T) at Arlington International Racecourse.
With three challengers from Europe and a couple with local success at the Illinois track, the Kitten's Joy ridgling got the perfect stalking trip under jockey Jose Ortiz behind early leader and last-out American Derby (G3T) winner Sonic Boom, moved alongside the frontrunner in the final turn, took command in mid-stretch, and was never seriously challenged late in a 2 1/4-length victory.
"He was sitting very comfortably in second, and when I asked him to go, he ran very well," Ortiz said.
The race was marred by the injury of Permian, who broke down after he finished the race and unseated jockey William Buick. The Teofilo colt, who won a pair of group 2 races in England, was euthanized following a "catastrophic" injury to his left front cannon bone, according to on-call veterinarian Dr. Mary Scollay.
According to Arlington officials, Buick was sitting up, talking, and moving after the incident, but was hospitalized for evaluation. The jockey felt he hadn't sustained any major damage but said he felt sore, especially in his lower back.
Group 3-placed Taj Mahal closed from fifth in the six-horse field to pick up second, and group 2-placed Afandem completed the trifecta, as Sonic Boom tired to finish fourth after he set fractions of :24.77, :49.51, and 1:13.83 through six furlongs. Gorgeous Kitten and Permian completed the order of finish.
"I got the trip I wanted. The horse ran well," jockey Ryan Moore said of his mount, Taj Mahal, who only has one win from 15 starts, but earned his first top-level placing in his fifth try at the grade/group 1 level.
Afandem's placing was also his first at the grade/group 1 level, which followed his second-place finish in the July 16 Prix Eugene Adam Grand Prix de Maisons-Laffitte (G2) last time out.
"Everything went smooth like I thought," said Afandem's jockey, Frankie Dettori. "He's a young horse, and he hasn't encountered these kinds of bends. You have to race into them and race off them, and he's not used to those kinds of things, and lost all his momentum on the turns and that cost me."
The Brian Lynch-trained Oscar Performance finished off the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.79 to clinch his third straight graded win and third grade 1 score overall, following his win last time out in the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T), along with his 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) victory. He now has six wins from nine starts and more than $1.7 million in earnings.
"You're never confident until the finish line, but they were very good horses. ... so we're delighted Jose could ride so well and beat them," said owner John Amerman. "I said good luck (to Ortiz before the race), because he knows the horse and has ridden him ever since his first race."