Prize Package - By Evan Hammonds

August is among the busiest months in the Thoroughbred world. This past week alone saw the two-night run of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale reach new heights, which was followed by the two-session Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale of selected yearlings. On Aug. 13 The Jockey Club hosted the 65th annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing. On top of that, major racing took place from the Spa to Del Mar while consignors also scramble to prepare for the upcoming September yearling sale at Keeneland.

In Arlington Heights, Ill., Arlington International put on its marquee Million program for the 35th time, and while trainer Chad Brown hit a historic double by training both the winner of the Beverly D. Stakes (G1T) and Arlington Million XXXV Stakes (G1T), John and Jerry Amerman might have stolen the show as their homebred sophomore Oscar Performance drew clear to win the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat Stakes (G1T) in a time three-fifths of a second faster than Beach Patrol’s in the Million.

In a year when the leaders of the 3-year-old division have been shuffled more than a deck of cards, Oscar Performance has dominated the turf division with consistency and a deadly combination of speed and staying power. At this point in the campaign—two weeks prior to the Travers Stakes (G1)—it’s safe for us to say the Brian Lynch-trained colt is the best two-turn male member of the crop.

The Amermans and their team, who have been around the game for awhile, racing such stars as Adoration, Lido Palace, and Balance, concur.

“He’s just a freak,” Jerry Amerman said the day after the Secretariat. “He can hang with the pace and still finish fast; or he can go out on his own on the lead and get it done. He’s very versatile.”

“He’s not reliant on pace; he can run on the lead or he can stalk, and the fact he’s able to quicken in the lane and hold off European runners shows he’s a talented horse,” said Headley Bell, whose Mill Ridge Farm boards the Amermans’ mares in Kentucky and advises them on bloodstock matters.

Oscar Performance, a son of Kitten’s Joy—Devine Actress, by Theatrical, has won the last three of his five starts this year: the grade 3 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont, the 10-furlong Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T), and the $400,000 Secretariat, earning $1,017,500 this year. He ended last season with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T). His turf talents have come along just at the right time, as grass racing is gaining traction in the U.S., and Fasig-Tipton readies to lift the curtain on its “Turf Showcase” sale for turf-pedigreed runners.

Oscar Performance’s pedigree, according to the understated Bell, is just “a nice thing of all blends.”

His full brother, Oscar Nominated, has shown himself to be of quality, winning at the grade 3 level and finishing eighth in the Million. The younger brother tipped his hand early.

“He was sent to Barry Berkelhammer to be broken at 2, and this was the first year we sent horses to him. Barry clearly identified that Oscar Performance was plenty talented,” said Bell.

If there has been a hiccup in Oscar Performance’s 2017 campaign, it was his 10th-place finish in the American Turf Stakes Presented by Ram Trucks (G2T) on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. That race was run over “good” turf, but as we recall the surface was much deeper than that. It rained heavily leading up to Derby weekend, and the boots worn Oaks day did just fine but the regular shoes we wore Derby Day ended up in the trash.

The turf at Arlington Aug. 12 was listed as “firm,” but Jerry Amerman told us it had some cut in it.

Oscar Performance has plenty of consistency, plenty of quality wins, and clearly cuts a nice profile. He’ll now have to head out to face older foes, but it says here that shouldn’t be an issue. He’s the best 3-year-old male of the bunch.

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