Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Omaha Beach needed less than 70 seconds to remind fans what they had seen almost six months earlier.
This is still a serious horse.
Making his first start since winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13 at Oaklawn, Omaha Beach collared odds-on favorite Shancelot near the wire to capture the $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) by a head Saturday at Santa Anita under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
The victory, Omaha Beach’s fourth consecutive this year, vaulted the versatile son of War Front into the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top Thoroughbred Poll at No. 10 and rekindled hopes of an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding 3-year-old male.
Omaha Beach was No. 1 in the NTRA Top 3-year-old Poll, and the morning-line favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, before gradually falling off the national radar after minor surgery for a throat problem forced him to miss the first leg of the Triple Crown. Omaha Beach then missed scheduled comeback starts in the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes Aug. 25 at Del Mar (minor illness) and the $150,000 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) Sept. 28 at Churchill Downs (workout issue).
Omaha Beach had broken his maiden by nine lengths sprinting over a sloppy surface at Feb. 2 at Santa Anita. Omaha Beach then shipped to Oaklawn – his stakes debut and first appearance outside Southern California – and beat previously unbeaten 2-year-old champion male Game Winner a nose in the second division of the $750,000 Rebel (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 16. Omaha Beach won the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby by a length over Improbable, with Country House 5 ¾ lengths farther back in third. Country House, via disqualification, won the Kentucky Derby and Improbable won the Shared Belief.
In the 6-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship, Omaha Beach ($7.20) ran down a loose-on-the lead horse in Shancelot, who had narrowly missed Saratoga’s 6 ½-furlong track record in a blowout victory in the $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (G2) July 28. Omaha Beach covered 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.79.
Omaha Beach earned an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita with his victory Saturday. The Sprint is 6 furlongs. But Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said the colt is also under consideration for two other Breeders’ Cup races that day, the $6 million Classic (G1) at 1 ¼ miles and the $1 million Dirt Mile (G1).
Omaha Beach, who races for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, has a 4-3-1 record from eight lifetime starts and earnings of $1,301,800.
Oaklawn-raced Blue Prize and Elate finished 1-2, respectively, in the $500,000 Spinster Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares Sunday at Keeneland.
Blue Prize, seventh in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares in 2018 at Oaklawn, beat Elate by a half-length in the 1 1/8-mile Spinster. Blue Prize’s second consecutive Spinster victory earned the Argentine-bred mare an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Elate had already earned automatic berth into the Distaff with a victory in the $250,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) June 15 at Churchill Downs.
Elate has started three times at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies in 2017, second in the $350,000 Azeri (G2) March 16 and third in the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) for older fillies and mares April 14.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, Blue Prize ($17.20) won for the ninth time in 22 starts to raise her career earnings to $1,592,253. She covered 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.30. The 6-year-old daughter of Pure Prize races for trainer Ignacio Correas IV and owner Merriebelle Stable LLC. Blue Prize ran fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Whitmore finished second in the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (G2) for sprinters Friday at Keeneland. … Oaklawn stakes winner Mia Mischief finished third in the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) for female sprinters Saturday at Keeneland. … Walter De La Cruz, Oaklawn’s ninth-leading rider in 2019, entered Tuesday with 999 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Trainer Randy Morse, an Oaklawn regular, entered Tuesday with 998 career North American victories, according to Equibase.