Weekend Takeaways: A mile suits Oscar Performance

September 14, 2018 09:13pm

The Woodbine Mile (G1) win gave Oscar Performance a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), run Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. Although it was a cutback in distance from his previous race, and his Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) attempt last year, a mile could be the frontrunner’s best distance.

Oscar Performance can clearly run 1 ¼ miles. He proved that as a 3-year-old by winning the Belmont Derby (G1) and the Secretariat Stakes (G1). He then ran a respectable third to older horses at 1 ½ miles in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1). The Breeders’ Cup Turf at the 1 ½-mile distance was a tough race though, and Oscar Performance faded to ninth.

You can cross a line through the Arlington Million (G1), run at 1 ¼ miles, where Oscar Performance was vanned off, but it’s worth taking a look at his other two starts this year.

After a long break, Oscar Performance returned in June to win the Poker Stakes (G3) at a mile. There he let others fight for the lead before pulling away from Made You Look and Voodoo Song, respectable horses to beat for a multiple Grade 1 winner who was away for seven months.

In the Woodbine Mile, Oscar Performance had a comfortable lead and fended off local Grade 2 winner Mr Havercamp. Even two years ago, the Kitten’s Joy colt pressured the pacesetter, drew away early in the stretch and held off late runners to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at a mile.

With the Turf being a distance Oscar Performance has not won at before, and the Mile being a distance where Oscar Performance has won from both on and off the pace, the Mile looks like a better option for the colt to get one last win before heading to stud at Mill Ridge Farm.

Serengeti Empress looks too good to beat

It might be too early to tell who the best is among the upcoming 2-year-old filly division but Serengeti Empress looks to have a handle on her crop at the moment.

It was the second straight runaway victory for the daughter of Alternation. After a debut win at Indiana Grand, the Tom Amoss trainee went to Saratoga and ran fourth in the Schuylerville (G2), won by Catherinethegreat.

The Schuylerville now seems worth crossing a line through for Serengeti Empress, as Catherinethegreat returned in the Spinaway (G1) to run ninth. Following absolute romps in the Ellis Park Debutante and Pocahontas Stakes (G2), Serengeti Empress has two back-to-back impressive scores to her name, including one at the site of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

Serengeti Empress led gate to wire, winning by 13 ½ lengths at Ellis Park and then a whopping 19 ½ lengths at Churchill Downs. It was the biggest Pocahontas margin of victory recorded, and the biggest stakes winning margin since Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (G1) by 20 ¼ lengths.

The Pocahontas is also run at the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, giving Serengeti Empress an extra edge for the 1 1/16 miles event.

Brown has another upcoming turf star

Making only his second career star, Fog of War stayed perfect in the Summer Stakes (G1) and earned a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Trainer Chad Brown and owner Peter Brant are already teamed on one of the best female turf horses in Sistercharlie, and the two now have an exciting turf juvenile in Fog of War. The War Front colt was a $400,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale and broke his maiden first time out at Saratoga going 5 ½ furlongs. He then successfully stretched out to a mile in the Summer Stakes, the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

In addition to the connections, Fog of War has the pedigree to succeed. He is by War Front, who has sired 2018 graded stakes winners U S Navy Flag, Lancaster Bomber, Cambodia, Dream Awhile, Fire Away, Lull and Hakam. He is also out of the Galileo mare, Say, a Group 3 winner in Ireland.

It will be no surprise if this colt goes off as one of the favorites in the Breeders’ Cup.

Hawkbill not in his best form

Jockey Jamie Spencer said the constant presence of Tiz a Slam in the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) “ruined” the race for Multiple Group 1 winner Hawkbill. But looking at the 5-year-old's recent record, he didn’t enter the Woodbine race in top form.

The son of Kitten’s Joy was a force to reckon with at Meydan this spring. He won the Dubai City of Gold (G2) in route to winning the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). In the latter, even acting up at the start didn’t stop him from producing a runaway victory. He returned to Europe to finish fifth in the Coronation Cup (G1), third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1) and fourth in the Coral-Eclipse (G1), a race he won two years earlier.

Hawkbill placed even further back in the Northern Dancer Turf, fading to eighth after setting easy fractions up front. While pressure on the pace could have affected his run, Hawkbill did not come into the race off top finishes like he did last year when he finished second in the race.


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