Homesman third as Oscar performs in Belmont Derby
Report: USA, Saturday
Belmont Park: Belmont Derby Invitational (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 3yo
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Homesman ran a solid race to finish third in the Belmont Derby Invitational without ever really looking likely to trouble Oscar Performance (Brian Lynch/Jose Ortiz), who ran out a decisive winner in the $1.2 million highlight of the Stars & Stripes Festival at the New York track.
The winner made all to record his second Grade 1 triumph after last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, which he won in similar fashion; he was completing a notable double for last year's Breeders' Cup winners on the card, as Juvenile Fillies' Turf heroine New Money Honey also took the Belmont Oaks.
Gallinule Stakes winner Homesman raced in mid-division under Irad Ortiz before keeping on in the stretch drive, where Oscar Performance easily held French-trained Called To The Bar, who did trainer Pia Brandt proud in second. Homesman was a further three-quarters of a length away in third; stablemate Whitecliffsofdover was never a factor before coming seventh of 11.
Oscar Performance,a ridgling son of leading US turf sire Kitten's Joy, was an 11-2 chance behind 3-1 favourite Yoshida, who was fifth. Despite hitting the gate, the winner was able to claim the lead and set steady fractions (23.96s, 49.48s, 1m14.37s) en route to a stylish victory.
"He broke slow and I had to chase him the first quarter of a mile, but then in the backside he relaxed real well," said winning rider Jose Ortiz, who had five winners on the showpiece card. "I backed the pace down a little and he was full of run when I asked him to go."
Trainer Bryan Lynch added: "I said if he’s able to dictate his terms, he’s going to be tough to catch. When the 49 and change came up, I started to grin a little bit, and when I saw the 1.14 and change come up, I broke into a big smile.
"When he inched away from them in the lane, I could see they were all throwing leather behind him," Lynch went on. "He proved he can get the mile and a quarter, and I think he beat a quality field of horses today."
Speaking of Homesman, Aidan O'Brien's travelling assistant TJ Comerford commented: "The steady pace didn't play to his strengths. He run a great race and I'm sure he can build on it. He came home very well."
Also on Saturday
Belmont Park: Belmont Oaks Invitational (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 3yo fillies
Even by his own lofty standards, the Belmont Oaks was quite something to behold for US champion trainer Chad Brown as he landed a 1-2-3 in a $1m contest he has now won five times in six runnings.
Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' Turf New Money Honey (Javier Castellano) hit the front in mid-stretch, getting first run on her rivals and gaining enough of an advantage to thwart Prix de Diane runner-up Sistercharlie, who charged home late from the rear.
The runner-up, made favourite on her debut for Brown after leaving France, was probably undone by her draw in the outside post of a double-figure field, which forced John Velazquez to drop in at the back of the field while New Money Honey was able to take a more prominent position just tracking the leaders.
Velazquez, criticised in some quarters for giving Sistercharlie too much to do, said: "She's run a little bit longer so she didn't show much speed the first part of the race, so I dropped inside and tried to save all the ground I could. Down the backstretch, I tried to make a little move and get a little bit closer to the horses in front. I saw Javier was third or fourth on the horse to beat so I tried not to make a premature move. When I pulled out at the quarter pole she ran, but she couldn't catch up."
Ex-French Uni took third for Brown in a race where O'Brien-trained Key To My Heart finished a long last under Wayne Lordan, fading rapidly after pressing the pace in the early stages.
"They all ran terrific," said the winning trainer. "This filly [New Money Honey] had good position early up in the front. She got first run and kicked great.
"My other two fillies, the two first-time Euros, both broke a little slow and were pretty far back. The way Sistercharlie broke, I'm not sure the post really mattered. She was going to wind up back there anyway. But it certainly didn't help. She really ran courageously, particularly off just three weeks’ rest and having to travel as she did."
Belmont Park: Suburban Hcap (Grade 2) 1m2f | dirt | 4yo+
Belmont Park: Dwyer Stakes (Grade 3) 1m | dirt | 3yo
Kentucky Derby fifth Practical Joke (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario) successfully cut back in trip and conceded at least 6lb to his rivals as he recorded his first victory since a course-and-distance success in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old.
Belmont Park: Belmont Sprint Championship (Grade 2) 7f | dirt | 3yo+
Another impressive performance from Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Mind Your Biscuits (Chad Summers/Joel Rosario), sent off 7-5 favourite before taking command soon after entering the stretch and flying home for a 3½-length victory.