Richard Mandella, not known for unabashed enthusiasm when it comes to championing his own horses, admittedly has a touch of Derby Fever these days, a month and a week before the 145th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Reason number one: Omaha Beach, a striking three-year-old son of War Front who handed champion Game Winner his first defeat in the second division of the Rebel Stakes on March 16. Reason number two: Extra Hope, a three-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby, who was fourth in the first division of the Rebel, beaten only 3 ½ lengths.
“Omaha Beach will go in the Arkansas Derby (April 13), mainly because I think he needs that extra week,” said Mandella, who although he has enjoyed a laudatory Hall of Fame career, has never won the Kentucky Derby with six previous starters.
“Extra Hope is being pointed to the Santa Anita Derby (a week from Saturday, April 6). Drayden Van Dyke will ride him and Mike Smith will ride Omaha Beach.
“I'm very proud of Omaha Beach. He got me pretty excited. At this point, you could say both horses have given me Derby Fever.”
Fans will be treated to a stakes overload on April 6, with seven added money events worth $2,750,000 on the calendar, topped by the $1 million Santa Anita Derby and the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Casino.
In addition to the 1 ¼-mile Big 'Cap and the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, each holding Grade I status, Santa Anita will showcase the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for fillies at 1 1/16 miles; the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes for three-year-olds at 6 ½ furlongs; the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs; the Grade II, $200,000 Royal Heroine Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf; and the Grade III, $150,000 Providencia Stakes for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
First post time on Big 'Cap/Derby Day will be 12 noon.
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