ARCADIA, Calif. — Maybe it was a bad dream or insomnia. Maybe it was a case of restless-leg syndrome or a creak in the floor.
For whatever reason, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella found himself awake in the middle of the night, and he started to think about the most talented horse in his stable.
Mandella’s initial plan was to get an easy breeze into Fox Hill Farm’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) favorite Omaha Beach the Wednesday before the race, but as his mind wandered a horseman’s cautious intuition took over.
“I had planned to breeze him tomorrow, three days before the race, then I got to thinking (at) about midnight,” Mandella said. “I’ve had him pretty sharp in his workouts and (I wanted) him to go :37ish—an easy three-eighths into the race—but he might decide that’s not good for him and he might want to go in :34, which he can do.
“If he does that three days out, I’m gonna feel disturbed about it, so I got up in the morning and changed the schedule, and we did it today.”
The 3-year-old War Front colt obliged Tuesday morning and logged an easy, three-furlong breeze in :36 1/5 over the Santa Anita main track.
“Couldn’t look better. He’s such a smart horse. You’ve seen the we’ve been doing,” Mandella said in reference to the colt’s stiffer previous works, like a five-furlong, :59 3/5 drill Oct. 23 at Santa Anita. “To just turn off and do it so nice—I love him.”
When asked about Omaha Beach’s troubles this season—a missed start as the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) because of an epiglottic entrapment and training delays later in the year—Mandella flipped the script and instead decided to focus on the best parts of the season, three straight graded wins in the Rebel Stakes (G2), Arkansas Derby (G1) and Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), his prep for the Dirt Mile.
“It’s been a great year. As a horse trainer, you learn to live with disappointments,” he said. “We have plenty of practice at that. But you don’t get many who win the Arkansas Derby and come back and win the Santa Anita Sprint … and turn out to be what he is. You erase the things that didn’t happen and live on what did happen.”
Another Breeders’ Cup favorite on the Santa Anita work tab Tuesday was Mitole, the 9-5 morning-line choice in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The 4-year-old Eskendereya colt trained by Steve Asmussen covered three furlongs in :37 2/5.
Other Breeders’ Cup workers Tuesday at Santa Anita were Blue Chipper (Dirt Mile, three furlongs in :34 4/5), Wrecking Crew (Juvenile, three furlongs in :38 4/5) and United (Turf, four furlongs in :48 flat).
It was also announced Tuesday that Juvenile third choice Maxfield will be scratched from the race.
“We came in this morning, washed his poultice off and gave him a little jog up the street, as we do,” trainer Brendan Walsh told TVG. “He didn’t look 100%. He’s normally a good-moving horse, so we sent him out … and he wasn’t quite right. Something is bothering him, so we decided we’d bring him home. There’s something going on. We’re hoping it’s just the foot. We can’t see anything obvious right now, but we’re hoping it’s just a foot abscess—just a small issue we can get over.”
Landeskog will also be scratched from the Sprint. Trainer Doug O’Neill told Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form that the 12-1 longshot for the Sprint “cooled out a little funny” after his last work Saturday.
“He’s 95%. Not 100. We’ll have to wait for another day,” O’Neill told Privman.