Sure, Beholder and Songbird threw down like Ali-Frazier, but what else happened Friday at the Breeders' Cup?
- Brian Lynch and Jose Oritz won the Juvenile Turf with Oscar Performance, who came into the race off a 10-length maiden win at Saratoga and a 6-length romp in the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park. He added another role for the academy, winning the $1 million race by 1 1/4 lengths.
From post 13, Amerman Racing's homebred bay son of Kitten's Joy found a great trip near the front and held off Irish raider Lancaster Bomber and Samaritan in the stretch. The latter, from post 14, steadied into the first turn, got spun wide and lost ground throughout and you can't do that and win a race this deep. Oscar Performance was one of just two in the field to race without Lasix, and gave Lynch and Ortiz their first Breeders' Cup wins.
- Shadwell Stable's Tamarkuz won his first race since March 2015 in the Dirt Mile, sending assistant trainer Neal McLaughlin on a leaping, flying, galloping rollicking cheer at trackside through the stretch. Trained by Neal's brother Kiaran, the 6-year-old won four in a row in Dubai, capped by the Grade 2 Godolphin Mile, before coming to the United States . He lost three start last year - the Met Mile, The Forego and the Kelso - then got a lengthy break at Shadwell before rejoining McLaughlin this spring. Ninth in the 2016 Met Mile in June, Tamarkuz chased A. P. Indian home when second in the 7-furlong Forego at Saratoga in August and then finished second in Anchor Down's powerhouse win in the Kelso at Belmont Park last month.
Saturday, he got his chance - two turns, a mile, some pace to run into - and delivered. Reluctant to get in the gate, much to Neal McLaughlin's dismay, Tamarkuz broke a step behind the others but that turned out OK as Runhappy and Dortmund battled on the lead. As it happened, Neal blamed the gate reluctance on some schooling the day before that didn't go exactly as planned (a horse stepped out the front doors as Tamarkuz was backing out) but sounded more like a worried trainer than anything else. Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Tamarkuz made sure it didn't matter, turning in his third consecutive solid race for jockey Mike Smith.
Shadwell's Joe DeSantis, standing in for an injured Rick Nichols (a ladder, a lake house, broken leg and now nothing but a good story), paid credit to Smith, the McLaughlins and some patience. Shadwell owner Sheikh Hamdan sent Tamarkuz to the U.S., then allowed DeSantis to put the horse on the shelf last fall at the farm in Kentucky. Tamarkuz ran last October, then didn't run again until June.
"It's so nice to have him finally, after the nagging problems and getting him back, come back and run a race like that," said DeSantis. "He and Mike seem to be this great combination. We laid him up, and it all worked out."
After spending the latter part of last year in Kentucky, Tamarkuz went to Kevin Kahkola in Camden, S.C. Feb. 1. From there it was on to the McLaughlins. DeSantis, a former assistant to trainer Neil Howard, has a different role with Shadwell though the on-the-track experience helps.
"Because I was on the track, the trainers know and we've got a better rapport," he said. "They understand that when we have problems we are able to talk about it and make good decisions. All we want to do is win races. He comes to us (in Kentucky), we lay him up at home, Kevin got him going and then Kiaran takes over. It's a team effort."
- New Money Honey won a crowded Juvenile Fillies Turf for E Five Racing, trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro finished second at Saratoga in September, then won the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park. Friday, she held off a game Coasted (who was third in the Miss Grillo) by a half-length with French runner Cavale Doree third in a field of 14.
NOTES: Argentina's Corona Del Inca was injured in the Distaff and euthanized after examinations revealed multiple injuries to her fright front. The daughter of Luhuk had won four of 10 starts in her native country including the Grade 1 Criadores at Hipodromo in May . . . Europeans were blanked on Day 1, but have plenty of chances to make amends Saturday . . . A record (for a Breeders' Cup Friday) crowd of 45,673 came to the races Saturday, though spacious Santa Anita did not feel crowded . . . The place was filling up fast Saturday morning.