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Oscar Performance: A Career of Movie-Worthy Moments

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance as a stallion at Mill Ridge Farm, Visit Horse Country tour
Oscar Performance at Mill Ridge Farm. Photo by Champions of the Track.

Early Life & Pedigree (2014-2015): On April 6, 2014, a stakes-winning mare named Devine Actress laid down to give birth to her third foal. The foal, a bay colt sired by Kitten's Joy, looked promising from the moment that he stood up for the very first time. The team at his birthplace Mill Ridge Farm couldn't help but dream that one day he would become something special.

The little colt was bred to be a turf star. His dam had been a nice performer herself, but had her career cut short by an injury just after winning her first stakes race. Devine Actress' sire Theatrical (IRE) had been more than successful on the turf himself; he won six Grade 1 races including the Breeders' Cup Turf in his career finale. Devine Actress' dam Devine Beauty hadn't been as successful on the track as her daughter, having never won a race in five starts, but descended from greats like Nashua, Seattle Slew, and Danzig. The colt's sire Kitten's Joy is renowned for producing good turf horses. He was a two-time Grade 1 winner on the turf himself and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf in 2004. Kitten's Joy was sired by Group 1 winner El Prado (IRE) out of the winning mare Kitten's First, by Group 1 winner Lear Fan.

The Devine Actress x Kitten's Joy colt grew up healthy and strong at Mill Ridge. The farm's managing director Headley Bell remembers him as a, "very attractive foal, the kind that you hope for. He continued to go that way as he grew. He was more of an alpha, but he stayed out of trouble."

The colt's breeders the Amermans decided to race him as a homebred, so he was sent to trainer Brian Lynch after his early education at Mill Ridge to begin his career running in the Amerman's navy and white silks. They named him Oscar Performance - Devine Actress' second foal, a full-brother to Oscar Performance, had been named Oscar Nominated and had won a graded stakes race before Oscar Performance even made his debut (and went on to win more than $1.5 million).

Two-Year Old Season (2016):

Oscar Performance made his career debut at the prestigious Saratoga summer meet, going 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf course. His first performance wasn't very impressive - he finished sixth - but his next race one month later was sensational; Oscar Performance went wire to wire in a dominating 10 1/4 length victory. This performance caught the eye of many racing fans and Oscar Performance was named "TDN's Rising Star", an honor bestowed on two-year olds who show promise and potential early in their career.

The colt had proved that he was worthy of being tested against tougher competition, so he was run in the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) where he again went wire to wire to win by an easy 7 lengths. The prowess that Oscar performance showed in his two victories encouraged his owners to run him in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). It wasn't going to be an easy race for Oscar - he had never run outside of New York and would have to travel all the way to California for the big race. It was going to be his first time running in Grade 1 company and he would have to break quickly from post 13, the second-widest gate of all, to get past horses and to his preferred position at the front of the pack. Plus, both Oscar Performance's trainer Brian Lynch and jockey Jose Ortiz had never won a Breeders' Cup race. Still the betting public liked Oscar's chances and sent him off as the 6-1 third-choice.

Thankfully Oscar rocketed out of gate 13 and got up into second place, not far off the rail, before the field started around the first turn. Though he had gotten into a good spot, Wellabled was setting a blistering fast pace and Oscar was going to have to keep up with it if he was to maintain position. Oscar Performance stayed right at Wellabled's flank as they soared down the backstretch and into the final turn.

As the field neared the top of the stretch, Jose asked Oscar Performance to overtake Wellabled. Oscar responded immediately, putting away the pacesetter with ease. He began to open up on the rest of the field, his huge strides eating up Santa Anita's turf course like it was nothing. Even when Lancaster Bomber and the favorite Good Samaritan threatened to run past him in the stretch, Oscar Performance fought on.

He crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths in front in a true Oscar worthy performance. It was a beautiful way to cap off his two-year old season.

[Video: Watch Oscar Performance win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf]

Three-Year Old Season (2017):

After his sensational Breeders' Cup victory, Oscar Performance was given some time off to rest and relax. He returned to training in February 2017 and made his three-year old debut in the Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on a wet track, but finished an uncharacteristic fifth. He tried to rebound in the American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, but faded all the way to last after setting the pace.

Brian Lynch felt that Oscar Performance did not respond well to the lasix he was administered prior to the American Turf Stakes. It was the first and last time this common drug was ever used on Oscar.

After the disappointing losses, Oscar Performance returned to New York. He had won two of his three races in the state as a juvenile and the hope was that the return would be what he needed to get back to the winner's circle. The move back to New York paid off handsomely - Oscar Performance won the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) before stepping back up to Grade 1 company for the Belmont Derby Invitational, which he won by two-lengths.

Oscar Performance at Mill Ridge Farm, Visit Horse Country tour
Oscar Performance at Mill Ridge Farm, Nov. 2020

Oscar Performance shipped to Arlington Park in Chicago for his next start, the Secretariat Stakes (G1), which he won with absolute ease. He then went back to New York to face older horses in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1), a race that his sire Kitten's Joy had won back in 2004, but he failed couldn't get past Beach Patrol in the stretch. He finished third, beaten out for second by just a nose.

Despite his loss, Oscar Performance had put in a good effort in the Joe Hirsch, so he returned to his breeders' home state California for the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Del Mar. Though Oscar Performance got the lead and was able to set a slow pace, he tired to finish a well-beaten ninth.

While Oscar Performance's three-year old season didn't go exactly as planned, he had still captured two Grade 1 races. That's definitely nothing to look down on.

Four-Year Old Season (2018):

Oscar Performance's four-year old season debut was delayed by a bout of colic. But when the colt did return in June 2018 at his favorite track Belmont Park, it was in style. He won the Poker Stakes (G3) by 1 1/2 lengths, setting a new track record in the process by finishing the mile in 1:31.23.

"He was on point and ready to roll today," jockey Jose Ortiz told BloodHorse after the race. "I'm so happy that he's back. He's one of my favorite horses. I won my first Breeders' Cup (race) on him. I'm very emotional right now."

Oscar's trainer Brian Lynch was also pleased with the performance, telling BloodHorse, "Absolutely thrilled with his comeback effort. He did it with authority and came back with a very fast time. That's a long-standing track record to break, so to have him do that off the layoff makes you look forward to the rest of the year."

It was time for the colt to head back to Chicago, this time for the Arlington Million (G1). He was attempting to become just the fifth horse to win both the Secretariat Stakes and the Arlington Million. Unfortunately, the race would end with a scare; Jose Ortiz felt Oscar Performance take a bad step and pulled him up in the stretch. Oscar was vanned off the track and examined by a veterinarian. Thankfully the horse had no signs of injury or distress and returned to the barn happy and healthy.

He made up for not finishing in the Arlington Million by winning his next start, the Woodbine Mile Stakes (G1), by 1 1/2 lengths. It was an incredible comeback that had all of his connections feeling grateful for their horse and his health.

"He's a barn favorite horse. He's a ham to be around. Everybody loves him and so to see that happen to your best horse, it was heartbreaking," Erin Lynch, wife of and assistant to Brian Lynch said to BloodHorse. "But then to come back and do that, it just means the world."

[Video: Watch Oscar Performance win the Woodbine Mile (G1)]

After his beautiful victory at Woodbine, Oscar Performance traveled back down to Kentucky for the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. It would be the final performance of his career. Though he didn't end his career in a dazzling way (he finished 14th), he had certainly proved himself as one of the best turf horses of his generation throughout his career.

Oscar Performance had won four Grade 1 races and earned more than $2.3 million. In all, he retired with a record of 15: 8-0-1.

Retirement & Stud Career (Nov. 2018 - present):

Just days after the Breeders' Cup Turf, Oscar Performance returned to his birthplace Mill Ridge Farm to begin a stud career. He is currently the only stallion standing at this farm! He stood for $20,000 for his first two seasons at stud. Following market trends, Oscar Performance's fee was lowered to $15,000 for 2021. Oscar's first foals are weanlings in 2020 and they are all as gorgeous as can be. "We celebrate his third year, for we have seen so many of his foals and they are genuine quality,” said Headley Bell. “He has every opportunity to buck the trend and have more mares in his third year than he had in his first two of 118 and 116. At a stud fee of $15,000 live foal, he is value, for you have these quality foals in the pipeline.”

While the racing world eagerly awaits Oscar Performance's first foals to hit the track, many people have gotten to the opportunity to meet this stallion thanks to Mill Ridge's close partnership with Horse Country. Horse Country is a non-profit organization that connects horse fans to the behind-the-scenes world of racing and other equine disciplines in Kentucky. Mill Ridge's own Price Bell is on their board of directors and the farm is dedicated to giving their visitors a wonderful experience.

Book a tour of Mill Ridge Farm for your chance to say "hello" to Oscar Performance, a former star of the turf who will, hopefully, prove that he is a star stallion as well.

Horse Country Mill Ridge Farm tour Oscar Performance
Champions of the Track founder Kaeli feeds carrots to Oscar Performance on a Horse Country tour of Mill Ridge, Nov. 2020

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