Omaha Beach


A fan favorite during the 2019 season, this charge of respected horseman Richard Mandella emerged as the top three-year-old going into the 145th Kentucky Derby. Although he never got to compete in the race, it did not take away from his achievements on the racetrack.

Omaha Beach's greatest success came on the dirt, but the first three starts of his career actually came on the turf. The potential was there, for Omaha Beach racked up seconds and thirds as he alternated between Del Mar and Santa Anita during his juvenile campaign and the start of his sophomore season. He broke his maiden in start number five, trying the dirt for the second time and getting his picture taken at Santa Anita after winning by a huge margin on an off track, and that put him on course for a start in the Kentucky Derby.

Six weeks after defeating maiden special weight company, Omaha Beach leaped into the Grade II ranks, and he did so with a new rider. After having Flavien Prat in the irons for his first five starts, Omaha Beach now had Hall of Famer Mike Smith aboard. No other jockey would ride him in a race again.

Moving to Oaklawn Park, Omaha Beach embarked on the same path American Pharoah took to get to Churchill Downs four years earlier. Entered in a division of the Grade II Rebel Stakes, the War Front colt showed his gameness. Throughout his career, Omaha Beach seemed to find himself in a photo finish, experiencing both the winning and losing end of that scenario. It worked out for him in the Rebel, though, for he held off fellow Kentucky Derby hopeful Game Winner by a nose. Next came the Grade I Arkansas Derby, which was run on a sloppy surface. Omaha Beach showed his liking for that type of track again, getting the better of Improbable to take his first victory at racing's highest level of competition. His stature grew after the Arkansas Derby, and Omaha Beach went into Kentucky Derby Week as the favorite to win the Run for the Roses.

He was bred to do well in the race, too. Omaha Beach could count himself a relative of Raise a Native, who has been in the bloodline of multiple Derby champions over the years. Also related to the colt was 1964 Derby winner Northern Dancer and 1937 Triple Crown champion War Admiral. The pedigree was interesting, and it gave the impression that Omaha Beach could be a force on the first Saturday in May.

Unfortunately, he never got the chance to show what he could do going a mile and one-quarter. Just a couple of days before the race, an entrapped epiglottis thwarted Omaha Beach's Derby hopes. But he underwent successful surgery for the issue, and would return to race later in 2019.

Five months after the Kentucky Derby, Omaha Beach was back in Southern California, and he tried something new: sprinting. Up to that point, he had always been entered in races with at least a one mile distance. But he had no trouble going short, taking the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs after outdueling the favored Shancelot in a thrilling edition of the race. That set Omaha Beach up for the Grade I Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, which saw him uncharacteristically off the pace early, but his never give up attitude was on display once more, and he got up for a fine second behind Spun to Run.

The Breeders' Cup tends to be the season finale for several horses, but Omaha Beach had one more start in him. Made the top choice in the Grade I Malibu Stakes on opening day for Santa Anita's 2019-20 winter/spring meet, Omaha Beach more than justified that status by taking over in the far turn and running with no opposition the rest of the way as he took what became his career finale while playing a part in Mike Smith's recordbreaking 217th Grade I triumph. The win no doubt made an impression on several racing figures, for Omaha Beach was made a finalist for Outstanding Three-Year-Old Male at the Eclipse Awards, which was eventually won by multiple Grade I champion Maximum Security.

Originally, Omaha Beach was to go for a victory in the Pegasus World Cup before retiring, but he was withdrawn not long before the race due to an ankle injury. Thus, Omaha Beach went out a winner thanks to his Malibu score, and he was subsequently retired to Spendthrift Farm to start stud duty after fully recovering from the injury. As of the autumn of 2020, he is in Australia as part of Spendthrift's group during the Southern Hemisphere's breeding season. Whether he will be a successful sire will not be known for a while yet, but if members of Omaha Beach's progeny have that same resolve he showed in the races, they could be tough to handle at the races.

There is a case of what might have been regarding Omaha Beach and the Kentucky Derby, but that will not be what he is remembered for. He earned his fan base with his gutsy attitude and talent, and he always approached a race with one hundred percent effort. He never finished lower than third in his ten career starts, winning five of those races along with collecting four seconds and a third. In addition, Omaha Beach did something not seen in Thoroughbred racing for decades. According to Spendthrift Farm's website, he is the first horse in thirty years to win Grade I races at both six furlongs and a mile and one-eighth in the same year. Add to that the other distances that Omaha Beach conquered, and one will see a unique and versatile Thoroughbred.

He made Richard Mandella proud. He made Flavien Prat and Mike Smith proud. He made his owner, Fox Hill Farms, proud. And he made his fans proud.

Whenever someone is looking for an example of a true racehorse, that individual needs to look no further than Omaha Beach.

Sources:

underwent successful surgery: Shulman, Lenny. "Omaha Beach Undergoes Successful Epiglottis Surgery." Blood-Horse, May 3, 2019, https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/233457/omaha-beach-undergoes-successful-epiglottis-surgery

Eclipse Award finalist: King, Byron. "Eclipse Award Finalists Revealed, Led by Horse of the Year Candidates." America's Best Racing, January 4, 2020. https://www.americasbestracing.net/the-sport/2020-eclipse-awards-finalists-revealed-led-horse-the-year-candidates

Pegasus World Cup withdrawal: Mitchell, Eric. "Omaha Beach Settles In at Spendthrift Farm." Blood-Horse, January 28, 2020. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/238202/omaha-beach-settles-in-at-spendthrift-farm

first horse in thirty years: Omaha Beach's Stallion Page. Spendthrift Farm, September 16, 2020. https://www.spendthriftfarm.com/stallions/omaha-beach/


Entry added September 16, 2020 by AF.