Fox Hill Farm's Omaha Beach emerged in good order from his nose victory in the second division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles and will be flown back to his Southern California base Tuesday, the colt's Hall of Fame trainer, Richard Mandella, said in a text message Sunday morning.
Whether Omaha Beach returns to Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13 remains to be seen.
“We'll just have to play it by ear,” Mandella said moments after Omaha Beach nipped champion and previously unbeaten Game Winner before an estimated crowd of 45,500 late Saturday afternoon.
Omaha Beach ($10.80) earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 96 – a career high – in his stakes debut and first start outside California. Long Range Toddy ($18.80) also earned a career-high Beyer (95) for his neck victory over previously unbeaten Improbable in the first division of the Rebel.
Long Range Toddy was fine physically Sunday morning, said Darren Fleming, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“Everything's good,” Fleming said.
The major Oaklawn objective for Long Range Toddy has been the Arkansas Derby. The son of Take Charge Indy races for his breeder, Willis Horton of Marshall, Ark., who won the 2013 Rebel with eventual 3-year-old champion male Will Take Charge.
Long Range Toddy ran in Oaklawn's first two Kentucky Derby points races, finishing second in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 25 and third in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 18.
The Rebel was originally a $1 million race, but it was split and the purse adjusted to accommodate Southern California horsemen impacted by Santa Anita's March 5 announcement that it was suspending racing indefinitely because of poor weather and track conditions. Game Winner and Improbable had been scheduled to make their 3-year-old debuts in the $500,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) March 9 at Santa Anita, but were re-routed to Arkansas because of events on the West Coast.
In addition to Game Winner and Improbable, six other Southern California-based Rebel entrants were flown to Arkansas, including Omaha Beach and stablemate Extra Hope (fourth in the first division).
“He was set to go here,” Mandella said of Omaha Beach. “Extra Hope was set to run in the San Felipe out there. And when this happened, we ran them both. And other horse ran well, too. He had kind of a mixed-up trip. He can do better than that.”
Each division offered 63.75 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers (37.5, 15, 7.5 and 3.75). Long Range Toddy (53.5) ranks third on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Omaha Beach is seventh with 37.5. The race is limited to 20 starters.
Baffert said following the race that Improbable will probably return for the Arkansas Derby, with Game Winner remaining home for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 6 at Santa Anita.
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