'I thought he was a Triple Crown winner'; Omaha Beach in for finale

Gulfstream Park Communications
January 22, 2020 02:09pm
'I thought he was a Triple Crown winner'; Omaha Beach in for finale
Photo: Ryan Thompson/Gulfstream Park
Omaha Beach is scheduled to race for the final time Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner will have the opportunity to produce a career-defining performance in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1).

Owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms Inc., Omaha Beach has been installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 12 entered Wednesday for the ground-breaking 1 1/8-mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up whose participants will race medication-free.

“It’s a great race. It’s interesting with no medication,” said trainer Richard Mandella, whose morning line favorite drew No. 5 at Wednesday’s post-position draw. “It’s great to be a part of it.

Omaha Beach was also the favorite for last year’s Kentucky Derby, only to be scratched three days before the race with a throat condition. After undergoing surgery to address an entrapped epiglottis, the son of War Front was given rest and relaxation time before returning to action nearly six month later. The colt went on to show the same brilliance that had propelled him to victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn, finishing off his interrupted 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and a sensational romp in the Malibu (G1), all at Santa Anita.

Omaha Beach will have the chance to significantly bolster his reputation Saturday before heading off to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., to begin his career as a stallion.

Mandella’s confidence in Omaha Beach is as high as it was on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

“I thought he was a Triple Crown winner. I can say that now, anybody can, but he was a big healthy horse – except for that throat. I really thought he was strong enough to [win the Kentucky Derby] and healthy and strong enough to continue on, which is the difference between a horse winning the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown,” Mandella said. “You’ve got to have the mind and the constitution to take that kind of regimen. He was always strong and such a good-minded horse I felt I had the chance.”

Omaha Beach was Mandella’s best shot to add the Kentucky Derby to his Hall of Fame resume, which includes nine Breeders’ Cup victories and a long list of Grade 1 stakes winners, including four-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder, 1993 Horse of the Year Kotashaan, as well as unprecedented success with South American imports, most notably, Gentleman, Sandpit and Siphon.

“What can you do? If you’re going to train horses you better put your seatbelt on. There are going to be rough bumps,” Mandella said.

Omaha Beach, who is “bigger and stronger and continues to fill out,” is the picture of an elite Thoroughbred.

“He’s got all the requirements. Extreme ability, terrific conformation, and a mind you can adjust like a radio,” he said. “You can turn him on, you can turn him off. You deal with those things you can do about anything, which he showed. He won the Arkansas Derby and the next time he ran he wins the Sprint Championship at Santa Anita and beats a really good top sprinter [Shancelot]. There are not many you can tune in and out like that.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode Arrogate to a 4 ¾-length victory in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup, has the return mount aboard Omaha Beach, whose competition includes the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile hero Spun to Run and a pair from the west coast in Higher Power and Mucho Gusto.

Post time is 5:35 p.m. ET. NBC will broadcast.

2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1)

 

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