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Omaha Beach, seen here edging Improbable in April’s Arkansas Derby, returns from a six-month layoff to race Saturday in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship. (Image: CourierJournal.com)
It’ll mark the first time in nearly six months that Omaha Beach has raced. His last win came on April 13 in the Arkansas Derby. After that, he became the morning line favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but three days prior to that race, doctors discovered a throat issue that scratched him from the Derby and required surgery.
Initially, Mandella planned to have his 3-year-old race in the Grade III Ack Ack Stakes last weekend at Churchill Downs. However, Omaha Beach had a bad training session leading up to the race, so Mandella opted to keep him back in California instead.
Saturday’s six-furlong race will be the shortest Omaha Beach has run. He started on the turf, finishing second twice and third once in his first three races. After that, Mandella switched him to dirt. He ran second in his first race before finally breaking his maiden in a February race at Santa Anita. That led to his sharp performances at Oaklawn Park in both the Grade II Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby.
The Sprint Championship is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Race, with the winner getting an automatic entry into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which will be held at Santa Anita in four weeks. Whether Mandella points his colt toward that race, the $6 million Classic, or something else afterward remains to be seen.
We’re anxious to see how it goes. But the main thing is getting him back to the races,” Mandella said. “We’ll see what might be next after we run. I’ll tell you after we get a race into him.”
The race is scheduled to run at 4:55 PT/7:55 ET and will be broadcast on TVG.
Shancelot the Early Favorite
Omaha Beach, ridden by Mike Smith, will start from the second gate and stands as the second choice in the race with morning line odds of 8-5.
His main competition will be Shancelot. Trained by Jorge Navarro, the 3-year-old has raced four times, and ended up in the winner’s circle three times. That includes a whopping 12-1/2-length victory in the 6-1/2-furlong Grade II Amsterdam Stakes on July 28.
In his last race, the seven-furlong Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga, Shancelot held the lead at the stretch, but was caught by both Mind Control and Hog Creek Hustle in a three-way photo finish.
Ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, Shancelot starts as the 4-5 morning line favorite. He’ll break from the third gate.
Flagstaff will make his graded stakes debut at age 5. Trained by John Sadler, the gelding has won three of his seven career starts, including his last race. On Aug. 18, he posted a half-length victory in a six-furlong allowance claiming race at Del Mar.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Flagstaff will break from the fourth gate and starts with 4-1 odds.
Two other geldings start off at 15-1 odds. California Street, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, will also make his graded stakes debut. Horse Greedy is looking for his first graded stakes win. Ridden by Martin Pedroza, the John Sadler-trained gelding has four wins in 19 starts.
Another colt who last raced in the Arkansas Derby will start inside of Omaha Beach. One Flew South finished 11th in that race. Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Evin Roman, the 3-year-old starts off at 30-1.