Turf Champion Oscar Performance Powers Home to Belmont Derby Victory
The Stars & Stripes Racing Festival featured a competitive field off 11 for Saturday’s main event on the turf – the $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational (G1). But they were all chasing Oscar Performance, who showed the way along the hedge and held all stretch runners at bay to win the Belmont Derby by two lengths.
Oscar Performance, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Champion, was let go at 5-1 odds despite rounding into good form having won the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) June 3 at Belmont Park. The Kitten’s Joy Ridgling won his 5th race in eight starts to reach nearly $1.5 million in career earnings after his $650,000 payday. Oscar Performance paid $13.00, $6.90 and $4.80 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
“I had to chase him a little bit the first quarter of a mile, but then on the backside he relaxed real well,” Ortiz said. “I backed the pace down a little and he was full of run today. When I asked him to go from the quarter pole he exploded.”
A strong contingent of European horses made up the field, and Called to the Bar (IRE) got bounced early in the first turn and then tracked the pace on the inside. He rallied willingly in the stretch to finish second ($8.10, $5.10). Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien had a pair of runners shipped in and Homesman (11-1) made a mild bid for show honors ($8.30), a neck in front of Good Samaritan (5-1). O’Brien had a horse finish in the money for the fourth straight year in the Belmont Derby. The Japanexe race favorite Yoshida (3-1) went seven wide in the upper stretch but couldn’t close strong enough and finished fifth.
A Belmont Park crowd of 12,667, up 63% from last year’s Belmont Derby day turnout, watched Jose Ortiz win his fifth race of the day aboard Oscar Performance in the featured Belmont Derby. The favorites won the first two stakes when Practical Joke (3-5) ran his “best race ever” for trainer Chad Brown to win the Dwyer (G3). Mind Your Biscuits (7-5) dominated the Belmont Sprint (G2). New Money Honey (5-1) then captured the $1 million Belmont Oaks before Keen Ice (5-1) came home 3-lengths clear to win the Suburban (G2). Oscar Performance (5-1) then delivered his encore in the Belmont Derby.