Fox Hill Farms’ Omaha Beach entered Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in a Cluttered Oaklawn Park needing to secure a beachhead at the Kentucky Derby (G1), and hit the Goal below masterful steering by Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
The slight 8-5 favorite repelled 9-5 second choice Improbable to make 100 points in the last scoring race, bringing his Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella closer to a first Derby trophy.
Omaha Beach was staving off a Bob Baffert beast for the second straight time in Oaklawn Park. Last out, it had been hitherto unbeaten champion Game Winner who could not really get past him in the next branch of this Rebel (G2). Omaha Beach garnered 37.5 points there, thanks to the splitting of this race, which put him right on the bubble going into the final round of points races.
Omaha Beach is now the joint $8 favourite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby with online bookmaker Bet365.
Improbable was in an even more dangerous scenario with 25 points, after being upset in the first Rebel branch by Long Range Toddy. Adding blinkers for the rematch from the Arkansas Derby, the Baffert trainee whined up at the gate, needed to be supported out, also reloaded. Although he broke well on the rail, he hurried farther back than would have been anticipated from the opening quarter-mile, and may not have been completely in love with the slop.
Meanwhile, Omaha Beach, whose slop proficiency was established in his Santa Anita maiden romp, was moving through an impressive set of gears to boost his position . Initially on the interior, Smith expertly maneuvered him out into the very clear and delivered him following longshot leader One Flew South. Omaha Beach expended energy to take control on the backstretch, but still had abundant strategic reserve when Improbable loomed to challenge turning for home.
The battle was on between both leading Kentucky Derby contenders from the race, with the remaining portion of the field out of view, and Omaha Beach never seemed like being overrun. Withstanding the siege of Improbable, he counterattacked by finding more in deep stretch and held influence with a span. The cleverly named son of War Front splashed 1??1/8 miles in 1:49.91 and upped his points overall to 137.5, second total on the leaderboard into Tacitus (150).
“My initial thought was,’Jeez, don’t move too fast,”’ Mandella said,”and I thought,’Do not be second-guessing Mike Smith’ — one of the greatest of all times. Just love having him can’t tell you just how much I love this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We had already ran from the slop in the home, so that wasn’t a lot of concern. He is a really tractable horse. I really don’t think we need to select a surface.”
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Smith imputed Omaha Beach along with his coach.
“Mr. Mandella was teaching him in the morning to split off strong and then relax,” Smith stated. “He did just that. Picked a wonderful little place and stayed right there. His cruising speed only takes up him. I just basically attempted to stay out of way. He is doing is to simple, I’m better off letting him than fighting him.”
Improbable garnered 40 points since the runner-up, boosting his total to 65 and consequently guaranteeing himself a Derby berth also. Watch to see if Baffert decides to keep the blinkers on, or shoot them off.
Country House made a sustained move for a clutch third, great for 20 points that also elevate him into the Derby with 50 all informed. Laughing Fox’s fourth netted him 10 points, his one and only showing on the points record. Next came Galilean; Long Range Toddy, who made nothing here but nevertheless has sufficient (53.5 points) to create the Derby field; Jersey Agenda; Tikhvin Flew; Gray Attempt; Six Shooter; and One Flew South.
Omaha Beach has enhanced since shifting from turf to dirt. The winner of three straight, he also sports a complete record of 7-3-3-1, and the $600,000 winner’s check made him a millionaire with earnings of $1,121,800.
Bred by Charming Syndicate in Kentucky, Omaha Beach is a half-brother to champion Take Charge Brandi, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner, along with a Complete brother to Irish Group 1-placed Courage Under Fire. They are out of the Seeking the Gold mare Charming, herself a half champion Can Take Charge and Grade 1 scorer Take Charge Indy. Blond is a daughter of multiple Grade 1 queen, $2.4 million-earner, and Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady.
Fox Hill’s Rick Porter has just had a few World War II-inspired horses operate well in defeat in the Derby, with Battle of Midway third in 2017 and Normandy Invasion creating a huge move before finishing up fourth in 2013. Omaha Beach, picking up the Normandy theme, may surpass them both. By beating both Game Winner and Improbable, he has said his case to be the potential Derby favorite.
Omaha Beach’s possible favoritism hinges upon if Smith opts to stick with him Derby 145 — he just rode Baffert’s Roadster into some Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory over Game Winner.
“it is a wonderful decision to have,” Smith said of the Omaha Beach versus Roadster option. “We’re going to go back and see how everyone comes back and go from there. Assess the situation. Then my agent is likely to make the decision. That is why I pay him.”