Fox Hill Farms' Omaha Beach took command at the head of the stretch and was all-out in the final 100 yards to fend off champion Game Winner, capturing Saturday's second division of the G2 Rebel by a nose on the wire. The 3-year-old son of War Front, ridden by Mike Smith for trainer Richard Mandella, covered 1 1/16 miles over Oaklawn's fast main track in 1:42.42. Omaha Beach earned his first 37.5 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, placing him seventh on the current leaderboard.
“Coming out of a maiden race, it's a big step up,” said Mandella. “Game Winner ran really good. He hadn't run in a long time. He'll probably be tough next time, but mine just broke his maiden. He might be tougher, too. 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.”
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion Game Winner's runner-up effort in the Rebel earned him 15 points, increasing his total to 45 and placing him sixth on the Derby leaderboard.
Omaha Beach broke well from the center of the pack, settling back into third around the clubhouse turn as Market King and Jersey Agenda pushed for the lead. Jersey Agenda took back, allowing Smith to guide Omaha Beach to second down the backstretch while tracking fractions of :23.54 and :47.29. Meanwhile, Game Winner was out wide on the course while in about fifth position.
After six furlongs in 1:11.82, Smith sent Omaha Beach after the leading Market King and grabbed a one-length advantage turning for home. Joel Rosario and Game Winner had to go around that pair, about three paths off the rail, but drew even in the stretch.
It looked briefly as though Game Winner would hit the wire first, but Omaha Beach battled back along the rail and just nosed out the champion juvenile in a photo finish. It was at least five lengths back to Market King in third, while Gunmental Gray checked in fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by the Charming Syndicate, Omaha Beach is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming, herself a $3.2 million yearling at the Keeneland September sale out of the three-time Grade 1-winning Dehere mare Take Charge Lady, dam of of a pair of millionaires Will Take Charge and Take Charge Indy.
Omaha Beach did not meet his reserve at the Keeneland September yearling sale when bidding stopped at $625,000, and the colt later required five starts to break his maiden in Southern California. The Rebel is his first stakes triumph, improving his career record to 2-3-1 from six starts for earnings of over $480,000.
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