Being thought of as worthy is good, proving it is even better. That was certainly the case for a Thoroughbred runner on a record-setting Turf Cup day at Kentucky Downs on September 9.
Oscar Nominated has long been thought of as a horse with a chance. A four-year old son of the fabulously successful sire Kitten’s Joy, the colt had shown promise for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. After winning the 2016 Spiral Stakes, the highly dedicated owners nominated Oscar to the Kentucky Derby and paid the late fee to get their blossoming colt into the “Run for the Roses”. Things did not work out as they hoped and a 17th place finish over the Derby dirt sent Oscar towards his pedigree as a grass runner. A victory in the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs and two second place finishes in six starts after the Kentucky Derby provided hope of future hardware. Heading into his four-year old campaign, thoughts were he would develop into a force on the grass.
The 2017 season had shown hope for Oscar as he was nominated to some tough races. Three starts in grade 1 races, one start in a grade 2 and two in grade 3’s had netted two seconds and two thirds for the Mike Maker trainee. Running strong enough to be in top company, Oscar Nominated perhaps just needed the right script to showcase his talents. And then along came the Kentucky Turf Cup.
Training superbly for team Ramsey, the decision was made to start Oscar in the mile and a half Turf Cup. Of course the competition would be tough with $600,000 in purse money on the line, but this son of Devine Actress seemed ready for the challenge. Having displayed a fondness for the European style course last year and with Frenchmen Julian Leparoux in the irons, a winning performance looked to be a strong possibility.
Breaking alertly and settling in mid-pack for the grass marathon, Oscar ran beautifully as the horses headed up the hill of the backstretch. Positioning himself for a big move, Leparoux was masterful in understanding both the course and his horse.
“He settled nice early and we knew in a race of this length he needed to be comfortable,” says Leparoux. “We knew he could handle the distance and he likes to run here. This is a different style track and it is important not to move too early. The final sixteenth is very long and is a bit up hill. Some horses do not handle it well and as a rider it is important to know when to get them really going.”
Hitting the gas at just the right time, Oscar and his pilot struck the front with a big move in deep stretch to win by a stubborn neck over favored Postulation. As a runner that always tries, Oscar has proven his nominations to “larger“ races in the past were always warranted. After being cast in the leading role in the biggest race day ever at Kentucky Downs, Oscar Nominated rewarded his team for always believing he could be Oscar winning.
“He really loved the track and ran an outstanding race,” says his jockey. “He is a nice horse that put in a great performance.”