2019 Kentucky Derby Contender Profile: Omaha Beach

March 17th, 2019

It’s been a big year for War Front on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The 17-year-old Claiborne Farm stallion has already made headlines as the sire of two-time graded stakes winner , and on Saturday, War Front was back in the spotlight again when his son Omaha Beach fought to a valiant victory in the second division of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park.

Since War Front has a reputation as a sire of top-class turf horses, it’s not surprising that Omaha Beach began his career on grass. He arrived at Del Mar last summer with a good reputation, having sold for $625,000 to Fox Hill Farms as a yearling, and proceeded to run third in his debut going a mile while favored at even-money. The winner that day was More Ice, who went on to place in multiple turf stakes races.

Omaha Beach improved in his next two starts, finishing second by a nose at Santa Anita and second by a neck at Del Mar while knocking heads with the future stakes winners Flying Scotsman and Bob and Jackie. Then Mandella, looking to shake things up, switched the colt to dirt and presumably watched in frustration again as Omaha Beach fell just short of beating the well-regarded Nolo Contesto in a one-mile allowance race.

The turning point came when Mandella cut Omaha Beach back in distance for a seven-furlong maiden race over a sloppy, sealed track at Santa Anita. Clearly relishing the conditions, Omaha Beach got involved in a fast pace and then roared clear of his rivals to win by nine lengths in the quick time of 1:21.02.

Having gotten his first taste of victory, Omaha Beach refused to relinquish his newfound glory in the Rebel Stakes. Despite stepping up sharply in class and stretching back out in distance, Omaha Beach utilized his excellent tactical speed to lead most of the way under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and tenaciously hold off champion Game Winner in the homestretch to win by a nose with a career-best 96 Beyer speed figure.
Despite being a son of War Front, Omaha Beach’s pedigree actually contains several strong dirt influences. His dam, Charming, showed talent on the main track during her brief career and has already produced the champion two-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Furthermore, Charming’s sire—Seeking the Gold—won the Super Derby (gr. I) and Dwyer Stakes (gr. I) on dirt, in addition to finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).

Having conclusively answered the question of whether he can handle dirt, the next question facing Omaha Beach is whether he can negotiate 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May. War Front himself was a sprinter/miler who tends to reproduce himself at stud, though a few of his most successful runners (UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle, Juddmonte International winner Declaration of War, and Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Lancaster Bomber, for example) have won high-class races going 1 ¼ miles or farther. Seeking the Gold was also a tried-and-true stayer, so from all appearances, there’s no pedigree-based reason to doubt Omaha Beach’s ability to handle the distance of the Kentucky Derby.

All told, it appears that Richard Mandella and Fox Hill Farms have a rising star on their hands!