The leading 3-year-old grass runner in the United States may be the horse to catch in the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Oscar Performance, who won consecutive Grade 1 races for 3-year-olds in the Belmont Derby in July and the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August, may set the pace in the BC Turf, the nation’s richest grass race.
Trained by Brian Lynch for John and Jerry Amerman, Oscar Performance has won from the front and as a stalker. Lynch said Wednesday that jockey Jose Ortiz is likely to use those tactics in the BC Turf at 1 1/2 miles.
“He could stalk the pace,” Lynch said. “If there’s no pace in the race, I could see him dictate the terms as far as he can. He certainly deserves a chance.”
Oscar Performance was third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on Sept. 30 at Belmont Park, his first start against older horses. He was within 1 1/2 lengths of the front with a quarter-mile remaining and finished five lengths behind winner Beach Patrol.
“In the Joe Hirsch, I thought he was in a spot he wasn’t comfortable in,” Lynch said. “I thought he boxed on down the lane. We’ll get him on a firmer and faster turf and see where we are from there.”
A front-running style has produced success recently in the BC Turf. Last year, Highland Reel set the pace, leading by as much as 6 1/2 lengths, and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Flintshire, the champion turf male of 2016.
Beach Patrol, Highland Reel, and Oscar Performance were among the 20 horses pre-entered for the BC Turf on Monday. Beach Patrol, who also won the Arlington Million in August, leads the field, along with Ulysses, who was third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly Racecourse in France on Oct. 1.
A committee of Breeders’ Cup racing officials selected 14 for the field and put six horses on an also-eligible list – Seventh Heaven, Smart Call, Oscar Nominated, Frank Conversation, Mr Roary, and War Story.
Nezwaah was selected to start in the BC Turf but has a first preference for the BC Filly and Mare Turf on the same day. If she runs in the Filly and Mare Turf, Seventh Heaven would gain a berth in the BC Turf. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Seventh Heaven was 14th in the Arc de Triomphe. In 2016, Seventh Heaven was fourth in the Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
O’Brien has won the BC Turf a record six times, including three of the last four. He trains two other pre-entrants — Highland Reel and Cliffs of Moher.
Highland Reel, Nezwaah, Seventh Heaven, and Ulysses are among eight foreign-trained pre-entrants. Talismanic, third in the Group 2 Prix Foy on Sept. 11 at Chantilly, was a surprise pre-entrant and one whose chances cannot be taken lightly.
Talismanic is trained by Andre Fabre, who has won the BC Turf twice, most recently with Shirocco in 2005 at Belmont Park.