Trainer Richard Mandella reported Omaha Beach (War Front) looked well Sunday morning, a day after his scintillating return to the races in the GI Santa Anita Sprint Championship S.
“I haven’t had him out of bed yet, but he looks good over the [stall] door,” Mandella said.
Omaha Beach, scratched as the morning-line favorite from the GI Kentucky Derby, was making his first start since winning the GI Arkansas Derby in April.
“It’s just a relief to have him back at the same level he went out,” Mandella said. “We had some tough obstacles to overcome at the start [surgery for an entrapped epiglottis that caused him to miss the Derby], and then some lesser ones–just stupid things–afterward, a virus, a horse dropping the rider in front of us during a workout, just stuff you can’t control, but it forced us to improvise and it turned out well.”
His Sprint Championship win earned the Fox Hill Farms colorbearer an automatic berth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but Mandella is keeping all championship options open, with the Sprint, GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic all on the table.
“I’m not even thinking about it today,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the win. We’re going to run him in the Breeders’ Cup, but we’ll see how he comes out, get him back to the track, and let him tell us.”
Omaha Beach’s victory over East Coast invader Shancelot (Shanghai Bobby) was the culmination of a big day for Southern California-based runners. Southern California horsemen won four graded races on the East Coast Saturday, led by the Phil D’Amato-trained Bowie’s Hero (Artie Schiller)’s win in the GI Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.
“It just shows that the strength of trainers in Southern California is something everyone recognizes,” said D’Amato.
Trainer Doug O’Neill won the GII Woodford S. with Stubbins (Morning Line); Peter Miller-trained Spiced Perfection (Smiling Tiger) won the GII Thoroughbred Club of America S.; and Richard Baltas-trained Neptune’s Storm (Stormy Atlantic) captured the GII Hill Prince S.
“Racing’s always tough here,” Baltas said. “We have our issues, but we’ve always been well-represented across the country. It’s not as frequent when the turf horses ship out of state and win, like the dirt horses, because the dirt horses are expected to run well.”
Trainer Eoin Harty, President of the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), added, “This year is not different from any other year, because we always do ourselves proud when we ship anywhere. Training was a little out of sorts here this year, but the quality remains. If you can be competitive in California, you can be competitive anywhere.”