ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Oscar Performance took home another trophy and cemented his position atop the 3-year-old turf division when he won the Secretariat Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over Taj Mahal on Saturday at Arlington.
The race was marred by the breakdown of the English horse Permian right at the finish wire. Permian catastrophically injured his foreleg and had to be euthanized soon after the incident. His jockey, William Buick, was pitched hard to the ground and was transported to Northwest Community Hospital.
Permian broke out and took a hard bump at the start, then bobbled coming past the stands for the first time when crossing over gate tracks.
Oscar Performance bumped with Permian at the start as Sonic Boom set off for the lead, and Jose Ortiz, riding Oscar Performance, was content to let him go. Sonic Boom, with Oscar Performance about 1 1/2 lengths behind, set soft splits of 24.77, 49.51, and 1:13.83 for six furlongs, and Oscar Performance, who is a horse who can run very fast if he wants, was as content as could be.
"I was happy to have him second," Ortiz said. "He won the Breeders' Cup like that, and I've been breezing him a lot. He was relaxed when we entered the backside, and I had to smooch at him a little bit because he was going to sleep."
Oscar Performance, fully roused, crept up on Sonic Boom around the far turn, was lapped on the leader after a mile in 1:38.03, and asserted his superiority the final furlong.
"I knew I had [Sonic Boom] the whole way, and I'm just waiting for the English horses," Ortiz said. "When I asked him to go he responded really well. At the sixteenth pole I took at peek at the TV and I was really happy."
Oscar Performance, racing on a course called firm but that definitely had some cut to it, stopped the timer in 2:01.79 for 1 1/4 miles. The 3-2 favorite, he paid $5 to win.
The overseas horses Ortiz thought would come never fired. Permian came under heavy pressure a long way out and faded, while Afendem, the French horse, who went off the 3-1 third choice, couldn't quicken with Sonic Boom and Oscar Performance around the far turn. It was the Aidan O'Brien-trained Taj Mahal who mounted a mild rally, finishing second by 1 1/2 lengths over Afandem.
"I thought he ran a very good race," jockey Ryan Moore said. "He beat some good horses and he got beat by a very good horse."
Oscar Performance, by Kitten's Joy out of Divine Actress, by Theatrical, was bred by Mrs. Jerry Amerman and is owned by Amerman Racing Stable. The Secretariat was his third Grade 1 win following victories in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and the Belmont Derby Invitational last month in New York.
His record now stands at 6-0-0 from nine starts. Oscar Performance started his year in poor form, finishing fifth in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland and 10th in the American Turf at Churchill, but Ortiz said those races are tosses.
"He didn't like Kentucky grass courses. Kentucky horses are a little soft. That's not him," Ortiz said.
Trainer Brian Lynch has done good work getting Oscar Performance back on track and helping him ration his speed. Now Lynch is at a crossroads with his star turf horse.
"It's a big decision -- try him against older horses between now and the Breeders' Cup, and then decide which race to try in the Breeders' Cup," Lynch said. "He's starting to show he stays a mile and a quarter, and he might stay a mile and a half."