On January 4th earlier this year, hall of fame trainer Richard Mandella knew he had something in a young War Front colt; his confidence unblemished despite Omaha Beach’s status as a maiden after three turf starts. Now, moving from the sod to dirt, the change of course was designed to shake up Omaha Beach after failing to out-duel his opponents in long stretch battles, not yet possessing a will to win. The switch did no good though, as Omaha Beach was worn down in the stretch once again by a horse he’d prove to be much more talented than shortly thereafter. Since, Omaha Beach has finally broken through. He’s now now on a three race winning streak, the last of two came in stakes company fending off two of Bob Baffert’s best three year olds. Omaha Beach has come full circle and is the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby.
Once Omaha Beach tasted the winner’s circle after the easiest of wins in a maiden score on a sloppy track, he has taken off. In winning the second division of the Rebel over an undefeated champion at the time, Game Winner, Omaha Beach used his tactical advantage nicely getting the first jump on that foe, holding him off rather easily before yielding a late rally, somewhat immaturely. Once Omaha Beach flipped the switch back on in the final strides, he was intent on not allowing Game Winner by and galloped out on top despite the favorite having all the momentum at the wire. Next out, Omaha Beach had a minor hiccup in the Arkansas Derby when not showing much early speed out of the gate, which resulted in him having to rush up outside to confront the early pacesetter onto the backstretch (such a maneuver could all but end his race if duplicated in the massive Kentucky Derby field when he could be totally swept up in traffic). Once that was worked out though, he only allowed Improbable to mildly test him throughout the stretch run, not having to dig down deep to hold him off. He toyed with Improbable, one of the leaders of the division, who he will meet again in Louisville. Omaha Beach is considerably more talented than that one going off of the Arkansas Derby.
What would get Omaha Beach beat at Churchill is his immature, mediocre effort when in the stretch. Since he’s gotten good, he’s gotten very good, and has now allowed himself to get distracted while on the lead in the stretch, but manages to still win versus the best. The distractions blur the (what should be) much larger margin for Omaha Beach at the wire. If he waits too long to re-engage under the twinspires, he could lose it all. There’s also another possibility that the early pace is very hot which would work against Omaha Beach. While we feel that the pace is actually more likely to stand in favor of Omaha Beach, the possibility of a pace meltdown is always significant in a twenty horse field. Out of a female family stemming from the great Take Charge Lady (who has produced classic winners) on his maternal side, but by War Front (who produces mostly milers), Omaha Beach has plenty of pedigree to get a mile and an eighth. However, the final tenth furlong of the race may be a real test for this Derby favorite.
Of all of the lovely compliments one could accurately grant Omaha Beach, his most noble trait is his competitiveness. Once found struggling to cross the final frontier into developing his best self, Omaha Beach overcame this phobia and showed that he is the most talented horse of his crop at this important juncture, standing to win the world’s biggest race. Omaha Beach is a competitor, but he needed time to learn to compete. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s what PETA could never understand; that racetrackers are horse people, whether backstretch workers or bettors. We love the animals and the joy they bring much more than the activists could ever know. We want horses to find achievement and purpose from the game; the same takeaway it grants us human counterparts.
Sure, horse racing is an extreme sport. Some die in the process. We do not permit death, but it’s unfortunately part of the game. The health of the equine athletes should always be at the forefront. When people die from extreme sports, they’ve consented to the dangers. Horses cannot, therein lying the problem. Here’s the difference. Like it or not, the thoroughbred has been bred to run. To compete. To race. It’d be a shame to ignore this piece of their identity.
When a horse goes through that gate and runs herding along with his companions, it is one of the world’s most beautiful sights. I’m always amazed when I watch races where cars are visibly driving by the racetrack on a roads visible to the track’s TV stream. Where are these drivers going? What are they doing? Don’t they know there’s a horse race going on just a few yards away? Why aren’t they there to witness this captivating event? Aside from the inherent beauty of competition, supporters of the game are putting the show on for the horses just as much for the human spectators. We give them fair conditions to race and we get to witness their beauty and passion. To see two horses going at it in the stretch is to see Tiger Woods with a driver or Carlos Santana with a guitar. They will take you into the spotlight where excellence is. Horse racing is an art, a devine spectacle. These specimens are more God’s gift than man. Do we want to be a culture that throws this away?
Those horses that pass away or injure themselves do it in the sacrifice of the game. This is worth the compromise, dark as it is. PETA is a group that wants to put a permanent end to horse racing. We’re appalled of these motives right off the bat. We want our horses. And we want our sport. As a supporter of horse racing, I don’t mind that PETA wants a seat at the table. By all means, the industry needs to face regulation to form safety standards that need to be upheld. Humans will go too far to win purses, and need to be held accountable. If PETA keeps the onus on state regulators to make the game as safe as possible, kudos to them. Horses should not die in this country at higher rates than any other place in the world. But let’s get it straight; until you share our love for the game that celebrates the animal, a game that is based on horse and man united as one to accomplish a shared goal, we can’t take you seriously without real stake in the game. Let’s take a step back and stop yelling for the cancelation of horse racing without accessing the entire situation. When horses face death, they do so for a game that celebrates them, their abilities, and their caretakers. If PETA and racing can unite on a front stating that we should all be doing the best for horses’ health, they should be united on the wonders of the game as well. Our culture should always have a place for a shrine to the thoroughbred, dedicated to their excellence. Horse racing is such an endeavour. See you at the races.
Oh, and back to Omaha Beach. He checks nearly every box that a potential Derby winner should. He’s ran two races that, if duplicated, would likely crown him as this year’s Derby champ. He’s got hall of fame connections and appears to be the most talented individual in the race. If you’re trying to beat him, let it be known that you’re hoping Omaha Beach is going to have an off day on the first Saturday in May.
Here are our trip notes of Omaha Beach:
7th career start: April 13th, Oaklawn, G1 Arkansas Derby, one mile and an eighth
Omaha Beach is #3
Out fine, not much early speed inside in midpack before switching outside into the first turn, passing three rivals to get onto even terms with the longshot pacesetter onto the backstretch, went on with it into the far turn, allowed some mild pressure by Improbable around the far turn, kept that one at a safe margin throughout the stretch, finished up nicely, galloped out on top. Though the lack of gate speed was concerning here for Omaha Beach (perhaps he didn’t love the mud this go-round), for a horse that took a long time to learn how to win, he’s turned into a competitive son of a gun that will just toy with some of the country’s best three year olds.
6th career start: March 16th, Oaklawn, G2 Rebel (2nd division), one mile and a sixteenth
Omaha Beach is #6
Broke well, outside rating off pace early before going up to press longshot Market King through average fractions, took over into the far turn, some mild pressure from Game Winner rounding into the stretch, held him at bay, yielded the length and a half margin to that one in final 16th, dueled, held, galloped out on top. Stepping up in company from the maiden ranks to take on the undefeated two year old champ in Game Winner, this one was a far easier winner than the margin may appear. He dominated this race up top and may have resorted to his old habits of not wanting to really go on with it in the stretch when yielding Game Winner a chance. When the switch was flipped back on, Omaha Beach was never going to let that one go by.
5th career start: February 2nd, Santa Anita, Maiden Special Weight, seven furlongs (sloppy track)
Broke fine, content to let top two to his inside go on with it before making quick work of them to ascend to the lead prior to the turn, opened up, ridden out to big score. Omaha Beach, apparently a mudder, found a surface he adored here, which allowed him to get over his mental block of getting to the winner’s circle in quite some fashion. A breakthrough effort cutting back a furlong.
Trip notes of Omaha Beach’s first four career starts can be found in the comments.