Race of the Week 2017

Before Animal Kingdom, there was Omaha

Animal Kingdom Dubai 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Kate Hunter
U.S. racing fans will tune in early tomorrow morning with bated breath to see if one of our racing heroes can conquer Royal Ascot. Make no mistake, it’s a noble undertaking Animal Kingdom will undergo in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. An American at Ascot, especially one heavily favored to gain victory, is a rare and special occasion. It is not, however, unprecedented. Before Animal Kingdom, there was Omaha.

A son of first-crop sire, and Triple Crown winner, Gallant Fox, much was expected of the young Omaha. Owned by Belair Stud, and trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, the chestnut colt would win only one-of-nine starts as a juvenile, though. Considering his breeding and connections, and the fact that the gangly youngster was consistently finishing well against strong competition in 1934, the belief in Omaha carried over to his sophomore season, when the distances and the importance of the races would both increase.
Sure enough, his first two starts at the age of three, which were also his first pair of attempts around two-turns, yielded a smart allowance score, and a fast closing 3rd place finish in the Wood Memorial. He would not be the favorite of the 1935 Kentucky Derby, but he was well respected by bettors at 4-1. It would mark the last time Omaha would go off as anything but favored. 

Strong and early rallies in the three races that make up the American Triple Crown resulted in a trio of victories that allowed him to join his sire in immortality. His 1 ½ length scores in the Derby and Belmont Stakes, and his six length romp in the Preakness, confirmed his place as the class of his generation.  To this day, Gallant Fox and Omaha remain the only father-son duo to account for the Triple Crown. Easy wins in New York’s Dwyer and Chicago’s Arlington Classic would close out Omaha’s excellent three-year-old season of 1935.

Looking for new worlds to conquer, the powerful Belair stable sent their star to England for his four-year-old season. Omaha was an instant success with two smart victories at Kempton in the Victor Wild Stakes and the Queen’s Plate. The pair of victories, carrying 129 and 130 pounds at 1 ½ and 2 miles respectively, sent the American invader off to Royal Ascot as an international star and the horse to beat in Europe’s most prestigious race for stayers.

In what would turn out to be the penultimate race of his career, Omaha lost the 2 ½ mile, 1936 edition of the historic Ascot Gold Cup. He was defeated, yes, but the nose defeat on soft turf to the previous year’s Epsom Oaks winner, Quashed, could easily be called one of, if not the finest, of all of the 1935 Kentucky Derby winner’s career of strong performances. Now we finally have another Derby hero at Ascot, hoping to seal the deal that Omaha came so tantalizingly close to more than three-quarters of a century ago.

So while we all watch the powerful son of Leroidesnimaux as he shoots for something truly special tomorrow at Ascot, how about a little remembrance for the last great American horse to take his shot at the Royal Meeting? Before Animal Kingdom, there was Omaha. 


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Older Comments about Before Animal Kingdom, there was Omaha...

Hopefully for Kingdom it comes up firm (unlikely).
Lets all concentrate on rain holding off til later in the afternoon tomorrow.
There is a difference, Johnny have experience in the long straight way where as Joel doesn't.
All I'm saying is, we're doing a huge disservice to this beautiful horse by posting all the jockey crap. The jockey won't have a major affect on the race. He has an international pedigree, he is seeking a G1 win on a third continent, and he will stand stud in Kentucky and Australia's breeding season's. He is not just our horse, but he's the world of racing's horse. The real King of Versitility deserves better than this garbage about jockeys (a subject hardly worth arguing over).
Animal Kingdom wearing a shadow roll is an interesting new addition. Do you guys think a shadow roll will help him? Let's change the subect- this jockey bullshit drives me up the wall- these useless banters aren't showing any appreciation for one of the classiest American racehorses. Let's appreciate his (Animal Kingdom's) beauty, class and talent. In his final career start, he seeks his third G1 win, on a third different continent, and also he will have won G1 races from 8-10 furlongs on turf, synthetics and dirt on a straight and left handed track. More than likely, this will be the last time we will see this big chestnut horse with the quick tuurn of foot, so let's not argue about the jockeys. Really, how much of a difference is there between Johnny V and Joel? There's not much of a difference. Who cares? Let's sit back, enjoy the race, and cheer the big chesnut home for his final career stretch run. I'm sure waking up early for it!
I'll make this my last response because (and I do mean this!) I really am not trying to be disrespectful. This is not an American vs the World thing. I have followed this horse since 2010, he's my favorite active horse, and I am going to be cheering for him 110%. If he does lose, I'll move on- no need to blame the jock. And I'll agree with you here- 1 graded win by no means makes you an expert. It just means that he does have experience and has proven in the past he could adapt to a track he has had little experience on and win. If AK runs his race tomorrow, then it may not matter who is on him, but just in case, 11 races on Ascot- which is better than nothing- just might come in handy. (Also, I'm a girl :) )
no a graded win is a graded win.so 1 win makes you an expert.please do not turn this into an american against the world act.these are race horses sir.this is a game.when euros come here do we root against them because they are foreigners.as far as me being adamant about 20 mounts,that is just a number i threw out.to me i need a body of work to accept experience as a precedent.what i will be laughing about is,if johnny v. makes a mistake.all of the people will be trashing him for it.i am just waiting for the 1rst post.why did they take joel off.
I read that AK is expected to wear shadow roll in addition to his blinkers tomorrow as he leaped over a shadow in a gallop last month.
having 20 starts, that's your opinion and that's fine, I personally just cant see how we can disregard a graded win. Honestly I'd rather get over this jockey drama and get excited about an American horse proving himself on a third continent, on a third surface, in his third race of the year. These are the two best jocks in the US right now, imo, there's going to be lots of conflict in their mounts.
Tmallios, I doubt there is anything anyone can say to change your mind about this- that's your opinion and that's fine. Sure, if AK doesn't win I'll still be rooting for Rosario. But here is what I found "John Velazquez' record at Royal Ascot: 11 mounts, wins in 2009 G2 Queen Mary and Listed Windsor Castle, second in 2000 G2 Ribblesdale." You seem adamant about having 20 starts, so does that mean we can disregard a graded win? Honestly I'd rather get over this jockey drama and get excited about an American horse proving himself on a third continent, on a third surface, in his third race of the year. These are the two best jocks in the US right now, imo, there's going to be lots of conflict in their mounts.
tmallios, I doubt there is anything anyone can say to change your mind about this. But here is what I found "John Velazquez' record at Royal Ascot: 11 mounts, wins in 2009 G2 Queen Mary and Listed Windsor Castle, second in 2000 G2 Ribblesdale." You are adamant about running more than 20 times at that track- hat
Brian, great piece. Just hear AK mentioned in the same breath as Omaha is quite an honor.
the ability to buy into these guys sorry story is exactly why i would love to see joel win this race.this way this nonsense of riding over the track will go out the window.if someone out there knows for a fact.can you please post how many times johnny v. has ridden this track,at this distance.i know he won a 5f stake for wesley ward 2 or 3 years ago.if you use that parameter,you are greatly misled.if you are telling me the dimesions of the track. i think a 5f race is a straight away.but please someone.clue me in as to how many times johnny v has ridden the distance.if it is more than 20 times,i will give you the benefit of the doubt in regards to experience.
As cedar says above, Motion's stated reasons for using Velazquez are 1) that he knows the horse very well; 2) that he has ridden and won at Ascot; 3) that he has specifically won at Ascot on the "straightaway". http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/77802/velazquez-to-ride-animal-kingdom-at-ascot
Hey, The connections obviously thought JV new the course layout and what it demands from the horse. JV rode the course before, Joel hasn't. Yes Joel rode Dubai for the first time, but an Oval is an oval. This is a totally different beast.
if that were the case why not get the leading rider at ascot ride him.it is bull.disrespectful to rosario.if i recall,joel never won in dubai prior to this years win.experience is important if you are comparing a journeyman rider.when you are comparing arguably the best riders in the world.experience is out the window.it is not like johnny v. has raced over thetrack enough to make a difference.like i said,it was classless to dump joel.
The Jockey switch was the right move. Experience is key at that course.
Motion has said several times they picked Johnny V because he has raced and won at Ascot. Rosario has not
not probably,but definately i know i am in a major minority,i am one of the few that does not want animal kingdom to win.personally,i would love to see the wesley ward horse who is ridden by joel rosario.i am not exactly sure why joel was tossed from the mount.if it is what i heard from some people that they want to re-unite him with johnny v. to re enact their derby history.i guess a jock riding a masterful race to win a 12 million dollar race is a little better in my book.
What race did Omaha win?

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