Scratched as the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Omaha Beach could have a say in the three-year-old title chase after all. The Fox Hill Farms runner is nearing his first work back for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella at Del Mar.
“I don’t have big plans with him,” Mandella told Del Mar publicity, “other than the Breeders’ Cup in the fall.
“He’s just galloping now, getting him legged up, and I may start breezing him in the next week or two.”
[UPDATE: Omaha Beach record a three-furlong work at Del Mar on Tuesday, July 23, breezing in :36.60.]
Mandella said that last week, so Omaha Beach could be back on the worktab as soon as this week.
“There’s a chance I might run him in the three-year-old stakes at the end of the meeting. If it works out. We’ll see how it goes.”
Mandella was alluding to the August 25 Shared Belief, named in honor of a champion who himself missed the 2014 Triple Crown due to foot problems.
Omaha Beach was sidelined by a different malady. He developed an entrapped epiglottis, a throat issue that affects the ability to breathe properly, at a very inopportune time. The royally bred colt had just rocketed to Derby favoritism after taking two points races in a row at Oaklawn Park. Handing champion Game Winner his first loss in a division of the Rebel (G2), Omaha Beach came right back to add the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Unfortunately, the epiglottis problem surfaced at Churchill Downs, prompting connections to scratch on the Wednesday of Derby Week. It was the latest Derby heartbreak for Fox Hill’s Rick Porter, and Mandella, both of whom appeared on the verge of winning the roses for the first time.
Omaha Beach underwent corrective surgery May 3 at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington, Kentucky, and convalesced at nearby WinStar Farm. He needed more time than first thought, but his team wanted to be sure that he was in great shape before leaving the Bluegrass.
Finally, on June 10, Omaha Beach shipped back to the West Coast and rejoined Mandella’s barn. The ever-patient horseman was in no rush, in keeping with his policy of letting the horse dictate the schedule instead of the other way around.
If all goes well as Omaha Beach ratchets up his preparations from routine gallops to timed works, a comeback in the one-mile Shared Belief gives him time to get in another prep ahead of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. A stud deal was inked prior to the Derby, so it remains to be seen how much longer his racing career can last before he retires to Spendthrift Farm.
Let’s hope that the onetime Derby favorite returns to add more intrigue to an evolving three-year-old picture. Maximum Security, the disqualified first-past-the-post in the Derby, re-asserted himself in last Saturday’s Haskell (G1). Preakness (G1) winner War of Will is expected to take on Derby and Belmont (G1)-placed Tacitus as well as up-and-comer Global Campaign in Saturday’s Jim Dandy (G2), with the resurgent pair of Game Winner and Code of Honor awaiting them in the August 24 Travers (G1). The hunt for the Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old male is just heating up.