Omaha Beach advances Kentucky Derby claims with Arkansas success
On Saturday morning Fox Hill Farm's Omaha Beach was clinging to the last available spot for the Kentucky Derby. But after beating Improbable in the Arkansas Derby he is 7-1 co-favourite in places.
In a race that secured the Kentucky Derby slots of the top three finishers, Omaha Beach grabbed the lion's share of qualifying points as he fended off Improbable to win Oaklawn Park's $1 million Grade 1 by a length.
"I was hoping he'd hang in there [in the stretch], and he surely did," said trainer Richard Mandella. "He's learned to fight it out."
A winner of his last three starts, Omaha Beach will head to Churchill Downs off the back of a pair of Graded stakes wins in which he defeated two of trainer Bob Baffert's top Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
"I think the horse certainly fits with the other horses. We'll see how he comes out of the race and see how things are going. We'll decide, probably, tonight [regarding the Kentucky Derby]," owner Rick Porter said.
Prior to defeating the Baffert-trained Improbable in the Arkansas Derby, Omaha Beach became a major Triple Crown contender when he edged Game Winner, Baffert's 2018 champion two-year-old colt, by a nose in the second division of the Rebel Stakes.
"Since the Rebel, he has grown and is bigger," said Mandella, who is nought from six in the Kentucky Derby, with a fifth by Soul Of The Matter in 1994 his best finish.
"Either that or the mud is making him look bigger, I'm not sure which, but we're excited. I hope he stays as good as he's been, because he has improved all year long."
The Arkansas Derby was the final stakes race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, and with 100, 40, 20 and ten points going to the top finishers, it put the finishing touches on the field of 20 for the Run for the Roses.
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