November 27, 2021

Omaha Beach lands in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Omaha Beach at Santa Anita 2019
Omaha Beach training at Santa Anita (Horsephotos.com)

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has revealed star three-year-old Omaha Beach’s target at the Breeders’ Cup – the Dirt Mile (G1).

“We put our heads together and that’s the decision,” Mandella told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden Thursday, referring to consultations with owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith.

Scratched as the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with an entrapped epiglottis, Omaha Beach ended up resuming in the six-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) on October 5. The War Front blueblood was tackling the shortest race of his career, and a specialist sprinter in Shancelot. A solid effort in the circumstances would have been pleasing enough to launch him to the Breeders’ Cup.

But Omaha Beach beat Shancelot at his own game, earning a free spot in the $2 million Sprint (G1) as a “Win and You’re In.” Connections also entertained the idea of a dramatic stretch-out to the $6 million Classic (G1). Although Omaha Beach’s raw talent made it worth a thought, trying 1 1/4 miles off a single sprint prep would have been quite an ask.

The $1 million Dirt Mile was the middle option. Also bound for the Dirt Mile is Improbable, runner-up to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1). It will be fascinating to see if the Omaha Beach news has a bearing on the Catalina Cruiser decision, with trainer John Sadler weighing the Sprint and Dirt Mile.

Mitole is reportedly under consideration for both races as well, but presumably likelier for the one-turn Sprint rather than the two-turn Dirt Mile. Interestingly, both Mitole and Omaha Beach are already advertised on the Spendthrift stallion roster for 2020, so that could be a factor in the decision making. Porter told Blood-Horse Thursday that Spendthrift was in favor of the Dirt Mile. (Yet another Spendthrift recruit, Coal Front, is likewise in the Dirt Mile picture.)

Plans call for Omaha Beach to race twice more after the Breeders’ Cup, in the December 26 Malibu (G1) and the January 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1). According to an October 15 report in Thoroughbred Daily News, Porter and Spendthrift at that time will confer upon retirement to stud. The recent pattern is for top stallion prospects to make a last hurrah in the Pegasus.