How Good is Omaha Beach?

The answer to this question is almost impossible to answer because you have a ceiling that is so high, it is difficult to assess without getting a bit too carried away.

With Omaha Beach, you have to start with the usual questions - How? What? Why? When? and Where?

The first question we've addressed, how good is he? What are his limits if he has any? Why has he become arguably the most intriguing horse in the country? When was the last time a horse won grade 1 stakes at six furlongs and 1 1/8 miles in the same year? And where will he run next? 

The options for his next start are the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Dirt Mile, and Classic. That shows you his uncanny versatility, although you can probably eliminate the Classic. 

As for winning grade 1 stakes at six furlongs and 1 1/8 miles or farther in the same year you have to go back 30 years to Dancing Spree winning the Suburban Handicap and BC Sprint in 1989.

This is a horse that had his 3-year-old campaign interrupted by a quarter crack, forcing him to miss an important allowance race, and then an entrapped epiglottis that forced him out of the Kentucky Derby, where he would have been the favorite. Then he missed return starts in the Shared Belief Stakes and the Ack Ack Stakes at a mile and was forced to go six furlongs in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship against track record-holder Shancelot, who had jaws dropping with his 12 1/2-length romp and spectacular 122 Equibase speed figure and record-breaking 121 Beyer speed figure, fastest ever by a 3-year-old sprinter, in the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga.

So what does Omaha Beach do? Coming off two-turn victories in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby and a six-month layoff, he tracks Shancelot through rapid fractions of :21 4/5 and :44 1/5 and gamely digs in on the rail and lunges at the wire to stick his nose in front, covering the six furlongs in 1:08 3/5 over a Santa Anita track that was deeper than in past years. About 30 yards past the wire, he was five lengths in front.

Remember, this also is a horse that broke his maiden in the slop by nine lengths, running seven furlongs in a blistering 1:21 flat in a performance so impressive it vaulted him up to No. 6 on Derby Dozen. He would eventually occupy the No. 1 spot for six straight weeks. To further demonstrate his versatility he was beaten in photos in two maiden races on the grass before trying the dirt. So he has run big on fast and sloppy dirt tracks, on grass, and at distances of six furlongs, seven furlongs, one mile, 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles.

He also demonstrated his recuperative powers by bouncing right back after his quarter crack and working a half in :47 3/5 and six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 before winning the Rebel Stakes defeating three-time grade 1 winner and champion Game Winner. It was quite a sight seeing this maiden sprint winner nearing the top of the stretch with jockey Mike Smith sitting motionless on him, while Joel Rosario, right behind on Game Winner, was pushing hard and failing to make up an inch of ground. In the stretch, Smith never touched him. When Game Winner came charging up alongside and looked like he was going to run by him, Smith hit Omaha Beach one time left-handed and the colt dug in and wouldn't let Game Winner get by, despite Smith losing hold of the reins and trying to grab onto anything he could, including the colt's mane. A few strides past the wire Omaha Beach was two lengths in front. That's when you knew you were looking at something special. 

He then returned to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby where he defeated grade 1 winner Improbable, again digging in gamely, single-handedly knocking Bob Baffert's two big Kentucky Derby hopes down several places in the weekly polls. In that race he also beat third-place finisher and eventual Kentucky Derby winner (by DQ) Country House by nearly seven lengths, earning a sensational negative-2 Thoro-Graph figure. One can only imagine what he would have done in the Triple Crown had he been able to compete.

And if you're looking for an excellent example of a steadily improving horse, his Beyer Speed Figures have been 62, 78, 80, 83, 90, 96, 101, and 103.

Even earlier in his career, owner Rick Porter said his trainer Dick Mandella was "on cloud nine" over this horse," adding, "I've never seen Dick so high on one of my horses."

Mike Smith was so impressed by him he chose to ride him in the Kentucky Derby over his main client Boh Baffert's latest star Roadster, despite riding that colt to victory in the Santa Anita Derby.

In the March 19 Derby Dozen, I wrote: "I have been so impressed with everything about this colt-his class, his speed, his stride, his balance-that I had him ranked No. 6 off a maiden sprint score in the slop back on Feb. 5. When he came down with a quarter crack and missed a scheduled allowance race I thought that was the end of his Derby chances, but he bounced back from that has been working lights out since."

Come to think of it, everything he has done has been lights out. He just finds a way to win regardless of the distance, surface, and competition. 

He has some heavy hitters to face next out, regardless where he runs, whether it be Imperial Hint and Shancelot in the Sprint or Mitole (in the Sprint or Dirt Mile) and Catalina Cruiser, who has lost only once in his career. It's a tall order, but if any horse can handle the challenge it is this colt, who has handled every challenge he has faced.

Right now I just want to see him get to the Pegasus World Cup in top shape, with a possible stopover at Aqueduct for the Cigar Mile. That would be one heckuva way to end a brief, but extraordinary career. Now, if Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes wants to keep him in training after the Pegasus, then we have a whole new chapter to write.

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