Arlington Heights, Illinois
If there is anyone who can interrupt the momentum of the Chad Brown turf dynasty this weekend, it is Brian Lynch.
It looks like two of the horses that Lynch trains – Oscar Performance and Heart To Heart – will be favored in Saturday’s biggest races here at Arlington Park and back east at Saratoga. They also may be on a collision course for the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November.
“I couldn’t put a line through who I could root for,” Lynch said. “I just consider myself very lucky to have them both at the barn.”
Oscar Performance (3-1), a 4-year-old colt that won here in last year’s Secretariat Stakes, is the morning-line favorite despite being drawn widest of the 10 horses in the $1 million Grade 1 Arlington Million, the 1¼-mile turf feature Saturday at 7:08 p.m. EDT.
Heart To Heart (2-1), a 7-year-old entire that won two Grade 1 races early this year, is the presumptive favorite for the $500,000 Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap, a one-mile race with six horses on the inner turf at Saratoga on Saturday at 5:02 p.m. EDT.
A native of Australia who has been on his own as a North American trainer for 12 years, Lynch could have his first pair of $2 million horses if Oscar Performance finishes in the top four here and if Heart To Heart is first or second at Saratoga. And he is confident that they will get to the winner’s circles.
Lynch said that the front-running Oscar Performance, the winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, is more than ready to handle Brown’s trio of Robert Bruce (9-2), Almanaar (5-1) and Money Multiplier (6-1).
“I just think he’s the best horse in the race,” Lynch told VSiN. “He’s really on top of his game at the moment, and they’re going to have to run and catch him. He’s such a tactical horse. If there’s no speed in the race and they leave him alone, he’s going to be very dangerous.”
A mid-pack runner that has won both sprinting and staying, Robert Bruce is a 4-year-old that went 6-for-6 in Chile last year before being sent to America. Brown saddled his U.S. debut victory in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in May and a troubled sixth-place effort in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day.
“He has won going from six furlongs to a mile-and-a-half in his last (Chilean) race,” bloodstock advisor Luigi d’Alessandri told the Arlington Park media department. “This is very difficult for a horse to do. I think that for our farm to have bred a horse like this is a fantastic thing.”
After 16 months on the shelf because of an injury, the deep-closing Almanaar came back to win an allowance race in June at Belmont Park. The Million will be his first graded stakes since he won last year’s Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, his only other win since coming to America from France.
“He’s done it before at that level, and Chad is so good with these older turf horses from overseas,” Shadwell Farms racing manager Rick Nichols said. “The horse deserves to be there in the Million.”
The well-traveled 5-year-old Deauville (6-1) appears to be the best of the overseas shippers into the Million, but he is winless in his last 10 races for Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien. He is coming in off an encouraging runner-up finish last month in a Group 3 race at Leopardstown, Ireland.
The only one that figures to challenge Oscar Performance for the early lead is the former Bill Mott trainee Catcho En Die (20-1), the winner of last month’s Grade 3 Stars and Stripes over 1½ miles on this same course.
“He’s got some speed,” Lynch said. “If he wants to go silly early, then we’ll let him go and we’ll crack him. If there’s no pace in the race and we inherit the lead, he’s very tough if they let him dictate the terms on the front end.”
What makes Oscar Performance’s résumé with three Grade 1 wins especially noteworthy is the fact that they have come the old-fashioned way. Without Lasix. The only time he ran with it, he finished 10th in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes last year on Kentucky Derby day. It was the follow-up to a fifth-place disappointment as an odds-on favorite the month before in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland. Both races were on wet turf.
“I panicked a little bit looking for an excuse, and I put him on Lasix,” Lynch said. “He just wasn’t himself. He was dull, and he ran dull. I didn’t think Lasix was the answer, so I took him back off it, and we haven’t looked back since. He is very clean-winded, he’s got a strong set of lungs, and he’s never bled a trace in his life. I’ve always felt why give it to him if he doesn’t need it?”
While Lynch is enjoying a last few races with Oscar Performance before a stallion career begins next spring, it seems as if Heart To Heart is only beginning to peak – even at an advanced racing age.
Looking back on wins in the Gulfstream Park Turf and the Maker’s 46 Mile, Lynch said “this could be his best year. There’s going to be another horse in there with plenty of speed. But I think Voodoo Song (9-2) is very one-dimensional. Heart To Heart I think is the class of the race. He’s a very, very tough, gritty little horse.”
The shortest-priced challengers to Heart To Heart include Mott’s Royal Ascot also-ran Yoshida (3-1), Jimmy Jerkens’s Canadian Grade 2 winner Delta Prince (4-1) and Brown’s closer Made You Look (4-1), a third-place finisher to Oscar Performance in June in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park.
So let’s say they both of Lynch’s horses do well Saturday. Would he be tempted to aim Oscar Performance back at the Breeders’ Cup Turf, in which he finished ninth last year over the 1½ miles? And would he also put Heart To Heart back in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he was 10th in 2017?
“The telltale thing on Oscar will be how he runs on Saturday with that mile-and-a-quarter,” Lynch said. “I really think Oscar is very effective at a mile. I think the Europeans have always got an edge on you going a mile-and-a-half in the Breeders’ Cup. If you asked me right now I’d probably shorten Oscar back up to run in the Shadwell Mile and then the Breeders’ Cup Mile. I’d like to keep them separated, but jeez, I’d like to take 80 percent of the purse.”
The full conversation with Lynch may be heard on the Ron Flatter Racing Pod.
Racing notes and opinions
Brown and O’Brien horses are the shortest priced on the morning lines for the other two Grade 1 races here Saturday. Winner of last month’s Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga, Brown’s closer Sistercharlie (9-5) is favored over O’Brien’s closer Athena (3-1) in the $600,000 Beverly D., a 1 3/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Athena comes in off a July victory in the Belmont Oaks Invitational. If something closer to the lead is desired, Brown’s two-time graded-stakes runner-up Inflexibility (8-1) may be the play. Brown has won the last three runnings of the Beverly D. Post time for the Beverly D. is 6:25 p.m. EDT Saturday.
Analyze It (2-1), Brown’s colt that lost by a head and a neck the past two months in Belmont Park graded stakes, is the favorite for the $400,000 Secretariat, a 1¼-mile turf race for 3-year-olds. The mid-pack pursuer Hunting Horn (7-2), third in the Belmont Derby Invitational last month, is the shortest-priced O’Brien horse after winning the Group 3 Hampton Court at Royal Ascot. While Hunting Horn looks like the class of the race, stable mate Lucius Tiberius (12-1) comes in off two handicap wins in Ireland and will carry value. The Secretariat starts at 5:48 p.m. EDT Saturday at Arlington Park.
Ron Flatter’s racing column is posted every Friday morning at VSiN.com. There will also be a column after Saturday’s Arlington Million. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, also posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. In this week’s edition from Arlington Park, trainer Brian Lynch discusses Oscar Performance and Heart To Heart, his two horses that are favored in the Arlington Million and at Saratoga in the the Fourstardave Handicap. Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau previews the Arlington Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat stakes. The RFRP is also available at leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.