Diverse Field of 11 Lines Up in the Joe Hirsch

Oscar Performace wins the Grade I Belmont Derby in wire-to-wire fashion (photo via Annette Jasko/NYRA).

Oscar Performance wins the Grade I Belmont Derby in wire-to-wire fashion (photo via Annette Jasko/NYRA).

Since the Breeders’ Cup came to fruition in 1984, US horses have used the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (G1) as a springboard to Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) success, including two in the past four years. This year, a talented and diverse field of 11 has lined up to contest the “Win and You’re In” event.

Headlining the field is the multiple Grade I-winning 3-year-old, Oscar Performance. Trained by Brian Lynch and owned by Amerman Racing LLC, the son of Kitten’s Joy has won six of nine lifetime starts. As a juvenile, the colt was so brilliant that, after his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), he had his connections considering taking the colt to England this year for races like the English 2000 Guineas Stakes (G1). Those plans were scrapped, however, when the colt finished a distant fifth in his sophomore debut in the Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland. He added another lackluster performance to his resume when finishing tenth, beaten 15 lengths, in the American Derby (G2) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard.

Those races seem like a distant memory now, as Oscar Performance is riding a three-race win streak into the Joe Hirsch. After his flops in Kentucky, Lynch shipped the colt back to Belmont Park, where he had won the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) last year, and the old Oscar Performance was back. He rattled of easy wins in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) and the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1), silencing all of the rumors that he wasn’t the same horse he used to be. He followed those races up with another easy win, this time at Arlington Park in the Secretariat Stakes (G1).

If there are any questions left for the colt to answer, those answers will likely come in the Joe Hirsch, as he will be facing older rivals for the first time and will be making his first start at the 1 ½-mile distance.

Oscar Performance’s biggest rivals could all come from one barn, as reigning Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown sends out a three-pronged attack in this race.

Leading the trio is Arlington Million (G1) winner Beach Patrol, owned by James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners and Head of Plains Partners LLC.  The son of Lemon Drop Kid has proven to be as consistent as he is talented, having finished off the board only three times in fifteen career starts. Like his younger rival, Beach Patrol is also a Secretariat winner, having won the race last year. He then went winless in his next six starts — five of which were Grade I events — but was only defeated by a sum total of six lengths. In the Arlington Million, Beach Patrol tracked an honest pace early before pouncing on the leaders and holding off the late runners to win by half a length.

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Trainer Chad Brown sends out three runners in the Joe Hirsch Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes

Brown’s other two runners in the race are Money Multiplier and Fanciful Angel. Money Multiplier is owned by Klaravich Stables Inc. and William Lawrence. The son of Lookin at Lucky has made just two starts this year, including a win in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G2). Fanciful Angel will be making his first start for Brown after being privately purchased following his runner-up effort in the Arlington Million while in the care of Marco Botti. He is owned by Dubb, Head of Plains Partners LLC and Madaket Stables LLC.

Sadler’s Joy could also prove to be a formidable opponent in the Hirsch off of his win in the Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) last out. Trained by Tom Albertrani and owned by Woodslane Farm, Sadler’s Joy did not make his first start until May of last year, but has blossomed into one of the top older turf horses this year. His deadly closing kick could prove helpful in a race that seems to have plenty of speed lined up.

Rounding out the field are Grade I winners Ascend, Mekhtal and The Grey Gatsby,  as well as Grade III winner Converge, stakes winner Channel Maker and allowance winner Tricked Up.

Carded as the tenth race on the Belmont program, approximate post time for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic is 5:54 pm ET.

Jordan Sigmon
16-year-old Jordan Sigmon is from Charlotte, North Carolina. She was bit by the racing bug when watching Big Brown demolish the field in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Jordan spends most of her time with her own horse Patrick, a 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding that she shows at hunter/jumper shows across the East Coast. When she isn’t at the barn she’s handicapping races and writing articles on the goings-on of the sport. Jordan’s dream is to work in the racing industry after graduating college, exactly what she wants to do is still up in the air but one of her biggest passions is working with young horses.
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