OMAHA BEACH CRUISES TO 2 ¾ LENGTH WIN IN GRADE I, $300,000 RUNHAPPY MALIBU STAKES IN PENULTIMATE START; SMITH & MANDELLA TEAM FOR SEVEN FURLONG WIN IN 1:22.33
SMITH NOTCHES 217TH GRADE I WIN, SURPASSING RETIRED HALL OF FAMER BAILEY
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 28, 2019)–A mere 24 hours earlier, Mike Smith advised the racing world that Omaha Beach “might do something really special” in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. Mission accomplished. In what is scheduled to be his penultimate performance, Omaha Beach, who was unhurried early, made short work of four rivals in winning by 2 ¾ lengths in a fashion that left many racegoers pining for what might have been had the imposing son of War Front not been forced to miss this year’s Kentucky Derby with an entrapped epiglottis.
Owned by Rich Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, Inc., and trained by Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach, who is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Charming, got seven furlongs in 1:22.33 with his reigns dangling and Smith, who notched his record setting 217th Grade I win, sitting dead-still.
“It’s just amazing and this horse speaks for everything,” said Smith, who also registered his fourth stakes win of the day. “He’s just beautiful, so fun to be around, so fun to ride, and so fun to train. It just shows how great this horse really is. I’m so happy and blessed to be a part of it.”
When reminded he had just surpassed retired Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey as racing’s all-time Grade I stakes winning jockey, Smith replied, “Jerry is someone that comes from my hometown. I was born in New Mexico, but raised in Texas in El Paso, where he’s from. His father was my dentist…So he’s always meant a lot to me, so to surpass him means a whole lot.”
With the Grade I, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitation pegged as his career finale prior to what promises to be a lifetime at stud at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, Omaha Beach, who won both the Grade II Rebel and Grade I Arkansas Derby this past spring, made amends for a disappointing second place finish as the even money favorite in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile here on Nov. 2.
“He was supposed to run like this,” said Mandella. When asked if Omaha Beach is as good as any he’s trained in his illustrious Hall of Fame career, he responded, “I can’t think of one better…The few times he ever got beat were my fault…This is really special for us, opening day at Santa Anita. After all the trouble we have been through this year, this place is The Great Race Place and we all need to remember that.”
Off as the 2-5 favorite in a field of five 3-year-olds, Omaha Beach paid $2.80, $2.10 and $2.10.
Winless in his first four starts, three of them on turf, Omaha Beach has now won five out of his last six starts, three of them Grade I stakes. With today’s winner’s share of $180,000, he now has earnings of $1,651,800 from an overall mark of 10-5-4-1.
Roadster, winner of this year’s Santa Anita Derby, was last with a half mile to run and rallied to be second, 2 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Manny Wah. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Roadster was off at 9-1 and paid $3.60 and $3.00.
Ridden by Channing Hill, Manny Wah was easily third and paid $3.80 to show while off at 20-1.
Fractions on the race were 22.43, 45.02 and 1:09.55.