Fox Hill Farms’ Omaha Beach entered Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in a sloppy Oaklawn Park needing to secure a beachhead at 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 option Improbable to earn 100 points in the final 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 out, it had been hitherto unbeaten champion Game Winner who couldn’t quite get past him at the second branch of this Rebel (G2). Omaha Beach garnered 37.5 things , as a result of the splitting of this race, which put him right about the bubble going into the last round of points races.
Omaha Beach is now the combined $8 favorite for its 2019 Kentucky Derby with online bookmaker Bet365.
Improbable was in a much 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 supported out, and reloaded. Although he broke nicely on the railing, he hurried farther back than might have been anticipated in the opening quarter-mile, and may not have been totally in love with all the slop.
Meanwhile, Omaha Beach, whose slop proficiency had been established in his Santa Anita maiden romp, was moving 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 command on the backstretch, but still had abundant strategic book when Improbable loomed to struggle turning for home.
The battle was on between both top Kentucky Derby contenders in 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 finding more in deep stretch and held influence by a length. The cleverly named son of War Front splashed 1??1/8 miles in 1:49.91 and upped his points total to 137.5, second total 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’ — one of the greatest of times. Just love having him can’t tell you how much I love this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We’d already ran from 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 pick a surface”
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Smith credited Omaha Beach along with his coach.
“Mr. Mandella was teaching him in the morning to break off strong and relax,” Smith stated. “He did just that. Picked a nice little spot and stayed right there. His cruising speed only takes up him. I just attempted to stay out of way. He’s doing would be to easy, I am better off allowing him fighting him.”
Improbable garnered 40 points since the runner-up, boosting his total to 65 and consequently strengthening himself a Derby berth as well. Watch to find out 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 which also elevate him into 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, that earned nothing here but nevertheless has sufficient (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 dirt. The winner of three straight, he also sports a complete record of 7-3-3-1, along with the $600,000 winner’s attention made him a millionaire with all earnings of $1,121,800.
Bred by Charming Syndicate in Kentucky, Omaha Beach is a half-brother to winner Take Charge Brandi, the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner, and a Complete brother to Irish Group 1-placed Courage Under Fire. They are from this Seeking the Gold mare Charming, herself a half to 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 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 big move before finishing up fourth in 2013. Omaha Beach, picking up the Normandy motif, can transcend them equally. By beating both Game Winner and Improbable, he’s said his case to function as possible Derby favourite.
Omaha Beach’s potential favoritism hinges upon if Smith opts to stick with him in Derby 145 — he also just rode Baffert’s Roadster to a Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory over Game Winner.
“It’s a wonderful decision to get,” Smith said of the Omaha Beach versus Roadster alternative. “We are going to go back and see how everybody comes back and proceed from there. Assess the situation. Then my agent will make the choice. That’s why I pay him.”
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