Fox Hill Farms’ Omaha Beach entered Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in a Cluttered Oaklawn Park needing to secure a beachhead in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and hit the Goal under masterful steering by Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
The little 8-5 favorite repelled 9-5 second choice Improbable to earn 100 points in the last scoring race, bringing his Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella closer to some first Derby decoration.
Omaha Beach was staving off a Bob Baffert monster for the second straight time at Oaklawn Park. Last outside, it had been hitherto unbeaten champion Game Winner who could not really get past him in the second branch of the Rebel (G2). Omaha Beach garnered 37.5 things , thanks to the splitting of this race, and that put him right about the bubble going into the final round of things races.
Omaha Beach has become the combined $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 in the Arkansas Derby, the Baffert trainee acted up at the gate, had to be backed out, also reloaded. Although he broke well on the rail, he raced farther back than would have been expected in the opening quarter-mile, and might not have been completely in love with the slop.
Meanwhile, Omaha Beach, whose slop proficiency had been established in his Santa Anita maiden romp, was going through an impressive pair of gears to boost his position early. Originally on the inside, Smith expertly maneuvered him out into the clear and delivered him following longshot leader One Flew South. Omaha Beach expended energy to take control on the backstretch, but nevertheless had abundant tactical book when Improbable loomed to struggle turning for home.
The battle was on between both top Kentucky Derby contenders from the race, with the remaining portion of the area from view, and Omaha Beach never seemed like being overrun. Withstanding the siege of Improbable, he counterattacked by discovering more in deep stretch and held sway by a span. The cleverly named son of War Front splashed 1??1/8 kilometers in 1:49.91 and upped his points overall to 137.5, second overall on the leaderboard into Tacitus (150).
“My first thought was,’Jeez, do not move too fast,”’ Mandella said,”and then I thought,’Don’t be second-guessing Mike Smith’ — among the greatest of times. Just appreciate having him and can’t tell you how much I love this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We’d already ran from the slop in the home, so that was not a lot of concern. He’s a really tractable horse. I don’t think we need to pick a surface”
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Smith credited Omaha Beach and his trainer.
“Mr. Mandella has been teaching him in the morning to break off strong and relax,” Smith stated. “He did just that. Picked a nice little place and remained right there. His cruising speed just takes him up there. I just basically attempted to remain out of way. He’s doing is to simple, I am better off allowing him fighting him.”
Improbable garnered 40 points as 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 created a sustained move to get a clutch third, great for 20 points that also elevate him to the Derby with 50 all told. Laughing Fox’s fourth netted him 10 points, his one and only showing on the points record. Next came Galilean; Long Range Toddy, that earned nothing here but still has enough (53.5 points) to create the Derby area; Jersey Agenda; Tikhvin Flew; Gray Attempt; Six Shooter; and One Flew South.
Omaha Beach has improved since shifting from turf to dirt. The winner of three straight, he also sports an overall record of 7-3-3-1, along with the $600,000 winner’s attention made him a millionaire with earnings of $1,121,800.
Bred by Charming Syndicate at Kentucky, Omaha Beach is a half-brother to winner Take Charge Brandi, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner, and a full 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. Charming 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 had a couple of World War II-inspired horses operate well in defeat at the Derby, with Battle of Midway third in 2017 and Normandy Invasion making a huge move before ending up fourth in 2013. Omaha Beach, picking up the Normandy theme, can transcend them equally. By beating both Game Winner and Improbable, he has said his case to be the potential Derby favourite.
Omaha Beach’s potential favoritism hinges upon whether Smith opts to stay with him in Derby 145 — he just rode Baffert’s Roadster into some Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory over Game Winner.
“It’s a wonderful decision to get,” Smith said of the Omaha Beach versus Roadster option. “We are planning to go back and see how everyone comes back and proceed from there. Assess the Circumstance. Then my agent is likely to make the decision. That is why I pay him.”
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