In a perfect world, Omaha Beach would be running in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 2.
As it is, and after negotiating through mazes just to get to this point, Richard Mandella will have to settle for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile the same day.
The back story is this: Omaha Beach made a dramatic and successful return to the races on Oct. 5 after an absence of six months, capturing the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs over odds-on favorite Shancelot by powering through on the rail to win by a head.
A star in the making whose popularity potential seemed unlimited, Omaha Beach was the pre-race favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 before an entrapped epiglottis resulted in surgery, forcing him to miss the race.
That was followed by a virus and an unforeseen training incident that ultimately prevented him from resuming his racing career until Oct. 5.
After pondering three Breeders' Cup races for the past several days, Team Mandella announced Thursday the son of War Front would return in the Dirt Mile, rather than the $2 million Sprint at six furlongs or the Classic at a mile and a quarter the same day.
Now, Mandella can only wonder “what if?”
“The only disappointment in all this,” the Hall of Fame trainer said on another picture-perfect morning at Santa Anita Friday, “is that I missed the opportunity to prepare him properly for the Classic, and I think that's where he deserves to be.
“But I thought it would be unfair, having just a short (six furlong) sprint into him, to try and make up that much ground within a month. So I think a mile is a perfect fit.”
If all goes well after the Breeders' Cup, plans call for Omaha Beach to run in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs Dec. 26, traditional opening day of Santa Anita's “Big Meet,” followed by his farewell in the $9 million, Grade I, 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25, 2020.
But if Mandella and the colt's fans had their druthers, Omaha Beach's racing career would continue beyond that.
“Spendthrift Farm has purchased rights to his career as a stallion, so at this moment, plans call for him to be retired to stud after the Pegasus,” Mandella said. “Saying that, I'm hoping the two sides can get together and come up with a new plan.
“My vote would be to race, because racing needs a star.”
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