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War Front’s Omaha Beach Holds Off Improbable in Arkansas Derby

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11th at OP , $1,000,000GI Arkansas Derby (1 1/8m)Winner: Omaha Beach, c, 3 by War Front

Omaha Beach | Coady

No amount of rain was going to ruin this ‘Beach’ day.

Omaha Beach (War Front) followed up on his game victory in the split-division GII Rebel S. with a determined, one-length tally over ‘TDN Rising Star’ Improbable (City Zip) in the GI Arkansas Derby over a sloppy, sealed track Saturday. It was another 5 3/4 lengths back to fellow ‘Rising Star’ Country House (Lookin At Lucky) in third.

“He looked like he was well within himself and Mike [Smith] just let him enjoy his job, just stride out and go where he went,” winning Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said.

Omaha Beach jumped well from his inside draw, but was quickly outsprinted by a quartet of runners heading into the clubhouse turn. Hall of Famer Mike Smith guided the Fox Hill runner to the outside and began to launch his patented, slingshot early move.

Omaha Beach hit the front with a four-wide blitz into a sharp opening quarter of :23.08 entering the backstretch, about seven furlongs from home. He held a narrow advantage over longshot leader One Flew South (Giant’s Causeway) through a half-mile in 47.50. Improbable, meanwhile, began to wind up with a flashy move of his own, and the stage was set as those two led the field of 11 into the far turn before an estimated crowd of 45,000 on a soggy day in Hot Springs.

Omaha Beach, confidently handled once again by Smith, responded well to a trio of left-handers close to home, and was never seriously threatened by the runner-up, who lost little in defeat for the second straight effort.

“My first thought was, ‘Jeez, don’t move too quick’ and then I thought, ‘Don’t be second-guessing Mike Smith,’ one of the greatest of all times,” Mandella said. “Just appreciate having him and can’t tell you how much I appreciate this horse and his owner [Rick Porter]. We’d already ran in the slop at home, so that wasn’t much of a concern. He’s a very tractable horse. I don’t think we need to pick a surface.”

The dark bay broke through with a nine-length maiden win going seven furlongs at fifth asking in the Santa Anita slop Feb. 2, then defeated champion Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) by nostril in the aforementioned second division of the Rebel. Omaha Beach was working bullets back at Mandella’s Arcadia base for this, headed by a five-furlong move in 1:00 3/5 (1/45) Apr. 6.

“I had a great trip,” Smith said. “He jumped extremely well. There were several horses that wanted the lead. Mr. Mandella has been teaching him in the morning to break off strong and then relax. He did just that. Picked a nice little spot and stayed right there. His cruising speed just takes him up there. I just basically tried to stay out of way. He’s doing it so easy, I’m better off letting him than fighting him.”

On having to choose between Omaha Beach and GI Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster (Quality Road) on who to ride in the GI Kentucky Derby, Smith added, “It’s a lovely decision to have. We’re going to go back and see how everyone comes back and go from there. Evaluate the situation. Then my agent will make the decision. That’s why I pay him.”

Last year’s GI Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity winner Improbable, drawn on the fence, was reloaded after causing a ruckus in the starting gate. He was also a narrow second to Long Range Toddy (Take Charge Indy) in sophomore debut in the GII Rebel S.

“I was a little bit worried in the starting gate,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said of Improbable. “He was acting up in there. I had a few moments there of maybe he was going to rear up or do something and get left. Luckily, they unloaded him and put him back and he left there well. I thought Jose Ortiz did a masterful job of riding him. We got beat by a good horse. They showed how these California horses are good horses.”

Pedigree Notes:

Omaha Beach, a $625,000 RNA as a KEESEP yearling, hails from one of the more successful families found on this year’s path to the Kentucky Derby. His dam, Charming, is by preeminent broodmare sire Seeking the Gold, whose 166 stakes winners, 29 at Grade I level, produced by his daughters include a baker’s dozen of champions the likes of Blame and Surfside. One of his champions as a broodmare sire is 2014’s top 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway), a half-sister to Omaha Beach. Charming is a daughter of multiple GI winner Take Charge Lady (Dehere), who was later named 2013 Broodmare of the Year after producing Champion sophomore Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) and additional GI winner Takes Charge Indy (A.P. Indy). Omaha Beach is by War Front, sire of 81 black-type winners, including another prominent runner on this year’s Derby trail in War of Will. Omaha Beach is the 20th Grade I winner for War Front.

Saturday, Oaklawn
ARKANSAS DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, Oaklawn, 4-13, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:49.91, sy.
1–OMAHA BEACH, 122, c, 3, by War Front
1st Dam: Charming, by Seeking the Gold
2nd Dam: Take Charge Lady, by Dehere
3rd Dam: Felicita, by Rubiano
1ST GRADE I WIN. ($625,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Fox Hill Farms, Inc.; B-Charming Syndicate (KY); T-Richard E. Mandella; J-Mike E. Smith. $600,000. Lifetime Record: 7-3-3-1, $1,121,800. *1/2 to Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway), Ch. 2yo Filly, MGISW, $1,692,126. Werk Nick Rating: D+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Improbable, 122, c, 3, City Zip–Rare Event, by A.P. Indy. ($110,000 Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). **TDN Rising Star** O-WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. and Starlight Racing; B-St. George Farm LLC & G. Watts Humphrey Jr. (KY); T-Bob Baffert. $200,000.
3–Country House, 118, c, 3, Lookin At Lucky–Quake Lake, by War Chant. **TDN Rising Star** O-Shields, Jr., Mrs. J. V., McFadden, Jr., E. J. M. and LNJ Foxwoods; B-J. V. Shields (KY); T-William I. Mott. $100,000.
Margins: 1, 5 3/4, 1. Odds: 1.70, 1.90, 8.00.
Also Ran: Laughing Fox, Galilean, Long Range Toddy, Jersey Agenda, Tikhvin Flew, Gray Attempt, Six Shooter, One Flew South.

Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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