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 slight 8-5 favorite repelled 9-5 second choice Improbable to make 100 points at the final scoring race, bringing his Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella closer to some first Derby trophy.
Omaha Beach was staving off a Bob Baffert beast for the second straight time at Oaklawn Park. Last outside, it was hitherto unbeaten winner Game Winner who couldn’t quite get past him in the next branch of the Rebel (G2). Omaha Beach garnered 37.5 things there, as a result of this splitting of the race, which put him right on the bubble going into the last round of points races.
Omaha Beach is now the combined $8 favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby with online bookmaker Bet365.
Improbable was in an even more perilous scenario with 25 points, after being upset in the first Rebel division by Long Range Toddy. Adding blinkers for the rematch in the Arkansas Derby, the Baffert trainee whined up at the gate, had to be backed out, also reloaded. Though he broke well on the rail, he hurried farther back than might have been anticipated in 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 going through an impressive set of gears to boost his position early. Initially on the interior, Smith expertly maneuvered him out to the clear and sent him following longshot leader One Flew South. Omaha Beach expended energy to take control on the backstretch, but still had abundant strategic book when Improbable loomed to struggle turning for home.
The battle was on between the two leading Kentucky Derby contenders from the race, with the remaining portion of the area out of view, and Omaha Beach never looked like being overrun. Withstanding the siege of Improbable, he counterattacked by finding more in deep stretch and held sway by a length. 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 overall on the leaderboard into Tacitus (150).
“My first thought was,’Jeez, do not move too fast,”’ Mandella said,”and then I thought,’Do not be second-guessing Mike Smith’ — among the best of times. Just love having him and can’t tell you how much I love this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We’d already conducted in the slop at home, so that was not much of a concern. He is a very tractable horse. I really don’t think we need to select a surface.”
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Smith credited Omaha Beach along with his trainer.
“Mr. Mandella has been teaching him in the morning to split off strong and then relax,” Smith stated. “He did just that. Picked a nice little spot and stayed right there. His cruising speed only takes him up there. I just basically tried to stay out of way. He’s doing is to simple, I’m better off letting 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 find out if Baffert decides to keep the blinkers on, or take them off.
Country House made a sustained move to get a clutch third, good 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 revealing on the points record. Next came Galilean; Long Range Toddy, who earned nothing here but nevertheless has sufficient (53.5 points) to make the Derby area; Jersey Agenda; Tikhvin Flew; Gray Attempt; Six Shooter; and One Flew South.
Omaha Beach has enhanced since switching from dirt. The winner of three straight, he also sports a complete record of 7-3-3-1, along with the $600,000 winner’s check 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 from this Seeking the Gold mare Charming, herself a half champion Will 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 had a few World War II-inspired horses operate well in defeat at the Derby, with Battle of Midway third in 2017 and Normandy Invasion making a big 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’s stated his case to be the potential Derby favourite.
Omaha Beach’s possible favoritism hinges upon if Smith chooses to stick with him in Derby 145 — he also just rode Baffert’s Roadster to some Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory over Game Winner.
“it is a lovely decision to get,” Smith said of the Omaha Beach versus Roadster option. “We are planning to go back and see how everybody comes back and go from there. Assess the Circumstance. Then my agent will make the choice. That is why I pay him.”
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