Analysis: Which Breeders' Cup race fits Omaha Beach best?

October 13, 2019 09:19am
Analysis: Which Breeders' Cup race fits Omaha Beach best?
Photo: Benoit
As it stands going into Sunday, Omaha Beach is a possible entrant in three Breeders' Cup races: the Sprint, Dirt Mile and Classic. But given the 3-year-old son of War Front went on the shelf last May and did not return until the Oct. 5 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), the pending decision is a difficult one.

With that in mind, let's put ourselves in his connections' shoes and reason out which of these races fits best.

Breeders' Cup Sprint

The six-furlong distance is not an issue because Omaha Beach just won a Grade 1 race at the same six furlongs and in the process defeated Shancelot, seen as the top 3-year-old sprinter.

Fitness is not an issue, either, if Omaha Beach is going from a six-furlong race to another six-furlong race in the Breeders' Cup.

As for the competition, it is unclear whether the 4-year-old Mitole will enter this race. But if he does, then Omaha Beach is in for another battle. Without knowing the final field, Imperial Hint and Shancelot again are tough, too.

But Omaha Beach is also likely to get excellent position by settling right off the leading group through a fast pace. In the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, Omaha Beach came from two lengths back in third to make his winning run. In a slightly larger field, he would settle fourth or fifth.

If another speedball or two such as Promises Fulfilled enters the fold and weakens the speed, that creates a nice situation for Omaha Beach.

While not a popular choice from a fan perspective, the Sprint is the most logical Breeders' Cup spot for Omaha Beach to enter off his prep race. He clicks a few checkboxes in the spot, from proven recent form at the distance to great early position. Why rush the horse to a longer race?

If Omaha Beach goes in the Sprint, he could still stretch out in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream in January before heading off to stud as scheduled.

Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

If the connections opt for the Dirt Mile, that is not a bad spot, either.

Omaha Beach is a proven router with wins in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) earlier this year. Before a throat issue forced him to bow out of the Kentucky Derby, he was the race's morning line favorite.

While Omaha Beach would need to stretch out from a six-furlong sprint to a two-turn mile, that is better than leaping from six furlongs to 1 ¼ miles in a month. It is more plausible trainer Richard Mandella can get him ready for one mile.

There's the prospect of facing a large cast of contenders in the Dirt Mile, although a number of current possibilities, as with Omaha Beach, could try other Breeders' Cup races. Among them are the aforementioned Mitole and Catalina Cruiser, last year's Dirt Mile favorite who hasn't lost in 2019.

Another big name in fellow 3-year-old Mr. Money is considered a probable entry.

Omaha Beach possesses tactical speed and could sit off the pace. But in this spot, it would not come as a surprise to see Mike Smith make an early move after the first turn and try to collapse the pace, the way Omaha Beach ran in the spring.

From there, he would have to hold off horses such as Firenze Fire. If Omaha Beach lives up to the hype of his last performance, I'd like him to win this race.

In addition, the Dirt Mile is gaining in prestige, even if its $1 million purse is half of the Sprint. Last year, City of Light won the race and then went on to dominate the Pegasus World Cup.

While it is farther than his prep race and around two turns, Omaha Beach looks like a good fit for the Dirt Mile.

Breeders' Cup Classic

In the Breeders' Cup Classic, Omaha Beach's task would prove toughest, and that's how it should be. 

But the probable competition is not the problem, as Omaha Beach fits well against horses such as Code of Honor, Vino Rosso, McKinzie and Mongolian Groom. Rather, Omaha Beach went on the shelf for six months before his successful return. He would face those horses with one six-furlong prep in tow.

If this was a “normal” Grade 1 such as the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), the lack of preparation might not be a big deal off the sprint prep. But in the Classic, every horse in this race will go into it tuned 100% for the race, geared up in their form cycles.

But on the positive side, it is not the most difficult Classic field assembled.

Besides those five contenders listed above, other probable entries include Elate, Yoshida, Seeking the Soul, Owendale and Math Wizard. Even though those are talented runners, they're not the type to scare you off.

Still, it feels like “too much, too soon,” as they say. While the Classic is the fun choice for connections and fans, this is about selecting what's best for the horse. 

And from a betting perspective, if Omaha Beach goes in the Classic, he is a play-against here.

 

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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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