Omaha Beach was a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, but sadly, he had to drop out at the last minute.
UPDATE 5/1/19 AT 7:40 A.M.: Unfortunately, Omaha had to drop out of the Derby because of “trapped epiglottis.” ORIGINAL STORY: There’s a little bit of grim humor behind Omaha Beach’s name. The 3-year-old horse, which is an early favorite to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby, is either named after one of the World War II landing site in Normandy, France – or it’s a joke about how Omaha is in landlocked Nebraska. Well, when the race takes place on May 4, Omaha Beach and his jockey, Mike E. Smith, 53, won’t be laughing, as they will take the 145th edition of the “Run of the Roses” seriously. Ahead of the race, here’s all you need to know about the thoroughbred.
1. He’s the son of War Front and Charming. Omaha Beach was born on April 24, 2106, the colt of mare Charming (who is the daughter of 1988 Super Derby winner Seeking the Gold and Take Charge Lady) and War Front. Omaha’s sire won three minor races but was retired to stud after he developed knee problems. Omaha Beach is also related to horses Declaration of War, War Command< Air Force Blue, U S Navy Flag, and Roly Poly.
2. He’s already a winner. Omaha Beach comes into the Kentucky Derby with two major wins under his belt (if the horse wore a belt.) Omaha Beach came in first at the Arkansas Derby, one of the races on The Road to the Kentucky Derby, on April 13. About a month before that, he ran to victory at the second division of the Rebel Stakes. “We always thought he was a really good horse. Being a War Front, I thought maybe he was going to want turf. But I was wrong with that. He wants dirt,” his trainer Richard Mandella said, per the Kentucky Derby’s official site. “Coming out of a maiden race, it’s a big step up.
3. His jockey is a legend. Perhaps the reason why Omaha Beach is one of the early favorites is the man riding him. As of January 2018, Mike E. Smith had racked up over 5,400 career victories as a jockey. He’s won the Kentucky Derby twice before – in 2005 while riding 50-1 longshot Giacomo, and again in 2018 on Justify – and has won the Preakness Stakes (twice) the Belmont Stakes (thrice) and so many Breeders’ Cups. In 2018, while atop Justify, Mike E. Smith made history by securing the Triple Crown by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
4. He’s fast. In his final serious workout sessions before the derby, Omaha ran five furlongs in 0:59 with Julien Leparoux riding him. “He broke off about five lengths behind and I told Julien to just let him sit and do what we’ve been doing with him all along this year — just schooling him back, back. Then turning for home, [Julien] took a new cross and let him run, and he did do that,” Richard Mandella said, per America’s Best Racing. “He went 0:59 flat and galloped out in 1:12 and change — that’s what we were looking for, and I don’t think we could be any better.”
5. Winning would make the dreams of Omaha’s team come true. Omaha’s trainer has won practically every horse race save the Kentucky Derby. His owner, Rick Porter, returned to horse racing after a two-year fight with cancer. A lot is riding on this horse. “This might be my last shot,” Rich Porter said, per the Lexington Herald-Ledger. “But we’re both virgins, so hopefully this will take care of both of us.”