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story.lead_photo.caption Omaha Beach and jockey Mike Smith (center) cross the line to win Saturday’s 83rd Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs ahead of runner-up Improbable and Jose Ortiz (left). An estimated crowd of 45,000 attended the event despite rainy conditions. See more photos at arkansasonline.com/414derby. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

HOT SPRINGS -- Shippers Omaha Beach and Improbable returned to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby after competing in separate divisions of the Rebel Stakes on March 16.

Despite facing off against each other Saturday, the results were similar.

Omaha Beach and Improbable arrived from California to encounter a sloppy track for the Grade I, $1 million Arkansas Derby before an estimated crowd of 45,000.

Omaha Beach, the 9-5 favorite trained and ridden by Richard Mandella and Mike Smith, respectively, held off Improbable every step of the homestretch to win by a length in 1:49.91. Improbable finished 5¾ lengths in front of third-place Country House. Laughing Fox finished fourth, 7¾ lengths behind the winner.

Gallery: 2019 Arkansas Derby

"He looked like he was well within himself, and Mike just let him enjoy his job, just stride out and go where he went," Mandella said.

Smith guided Omaha Beach to a comfortable lead through the first quarter-mile in 23.08, after long-shots One Flew South and Jersey Agenda pulled Gray Attempt and Long Range Toddy from the front around the first turn.

From there through the finish, Smith said he let Omaha Beach carry him past the wire.

"His cruising speed just takes him up there," Smith said. "I just basically tried to stay out of the way. He was doing it too easy, so I was better off just letting him than fighting him."

Whereas Omaha Beach cruised by the front-running quartet with a quick, decisive move out of the first turn, Improbable -- the 2-1 second choice trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Jose Ortiz -- moved by the same four at a slower rate around the final turn. He cleared One Flew South and approached Omaha Beach as they neared the top of the stretch.

From there, it was a fight to the finish won by Omaha Beach.

"My horse ran very well," Ortiz said of Improbable. "We probably go by any other horse, but Omaha Beach is very good. Mike was on a great horse."

"The horse, I was happy with the way he ran," said Baffert, who did not attend the race but spoke afterward by phone. "We got beat by a good horse. They showed how these California horses are good horses."

Omaha Beach and Improbable got their first shots at Oaklawn when Oaklawn split the Rebel Stakes into two races March 16. The split helped compensate for Kentucky Derby qualifying points lost when Santa Anita Park suspended operations March 5.

Richard Porter's Omaha Beach won one of the two Rebels by a nose over Game Winner, who ran second last weekend in the Santa Anita Derby at the reopened track. Improbable finished second in the other division to Oaklawn-based Long Range Toddy, who finished sixth out of 11 horses in the Arkansas Derby but was already assured of a spot in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4.

The Arkansas Derby offered 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with 100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth, enough to put Omaha Beach and Improbable in the field.

A total of 22 horses died either in training or while racing at Santa Anita between late December and March 5, when racing officials suspended racing. Numerous horses shipped to Oaklawn for racing opportunities, with several specifically targeted for the Rebel.

Omaha Beach's Rebel win legitimized the race-world buzz derived from his 7-furlong romp over a sloppy track at Santa Anita on Feb. 2, when he ran through 6 furlongs in 1:08.24 en route to a winning time of 1:21.02. It was a result that led to Omaha Beach's status as the Arkansas Derby favorite.

"We'd already won on the slop at one, so that wasn't much of a concern," Mandella said. "He's a very tractable horse. I don't think we need to pick a surface."

Many thought Gray Attempt, owned by Dwight Pruett of Texarkana and trained by Arkansas native Jinks Fires, would take the early lead as he had in each of his past five starts. His rider, Stewart Elliott, said the quick starts by the long shots changed his plans.

"I got kind of trapped in a pocket there, but he settled in there nice," Elliott said. "I really thought we'd be able to make a run."

Gray Attempt, who won Oaklawn's $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 25, was in fifth through the first half-mile but gradually faded to finish ninth, 23¾ lengths behind the winner.

"I think it was just too far for him," Elliott said.

Past winners

YEAR HORSE TIME

2019 Omaha Beach 1:49.91

2018 Magnum Moon 1:49.86

2017 Classic Empire 1:48.93

2016 Creator# 1:50.14

2015 American Pharoah$ 1:48.52

2014 Danza 1:49.68

2013 Overanalyze 1:51.94

2012 Bodemeister 1:48.71

2011 Archarcharch 1:49.34

2010 Line of David 1:49.37

2009 Papa Clem 1:49.00

2008 Gayego 1:49.63

2007 Curlin^ 1:50.00

2006 Lawyer Ron 1:51.38

2005 Afleet Alex^# 1:48.80

2004 Smarty Jones*^ 1:49.41

2003 Sir Cherokee 1:48.39

2002 Private Emblem 1:50.20

2001 Balto Sta 1:49.00

2000 Graeme Hall 1:49.00

1999 Certain 1:49.20

1998 Victory Gallop# 1:49.80

1997 Crypto Star 1:49.20

1996 Zarb’s Magic 1:49.20

1995 Dazzling Falls 1:50.60

1994 Concern 1:48.00

1993 Rockamundo 1:48.00

1992 Pine Bluff^ 1:49.40

1991 Olympio 1:47.60

1990 Silver Ending 1:48.00

1989 Dansil 1:49.20

1988 Proper Reality 1:48.40

1987 Demons Begone 1:47.60

1986 Rampage 1:48.20

1985 Tank’s Prospect^ 1:48.40

1984 Althea 1:46.80

1983 Sunny’s Halo* 1:49.40

1982 Hostage 1:51.60

1981 Bold Ego 1:50.40

1980 Temperence Hill# 1:50.60

1979 Golden Act 1:50.00

1978 Esops Foibles 1:52.20

1977 Clev Er Tell 1:50.60

1976 Elocutionist^ 1:49.20

1975 Promised City 1:51.80

1974 J.R.’s Pet 1:50.60

1973 Impecunious 1:49.60

1972 No Le Hace 1:48.80

1971 Twist The Axe 1:49.20

1970 Herbalist 1:50.20

1969 Traffic Mark 1:50.60

1968 Nodouble 1:50.00

1967 Monitor 1:48.60

1966 Better Sea 1:49.20

1965 Swift Ruler 1:52.20

1964 Prince Davelle 1:51.40

1963 Cosmic Tip 1:50.40

1962 Areopolis 1:49.60

1961 Light Talk 1:50.20

1960 Spring Broker 1:54.40

1960 Persian Gold 1:53.00

1959 Al Davelle 1:48.80

1958 Count Deblanc 1:53.80

1957 Kentucky Roman 1:49.60

1956 Johns Chic 1:51.20

1955 Trim Destiny 1:49.60

1954 Timely Tip 1:49.80

1953 Curragh King 1:49.60

1952 Gushing Oil 1:49.20

1951 Ruhe 1:51.00

1950 Big Ike 1:52.00

1949 Cacomo 1:54.60

1948 Fertile Lands 1:51.00

1947 Fleetridge 1:51.40

1946 Bob Murphy 1:51.80

1945 No race

1944 Challenge Me 1:50.20

1943 Seven Hearts 1:52.20

1942 With Regards 1:50.00

1941 He Rolls 1:52.60

1940 Super Chief 1:52.20

1939 Ariel Toy 1:52.40

1938 Tiger 1:50.80

1937 Eastport 1:50.80

1936 Holl Image 1:53.40

$Triple Crown winner

*Kentucky Derby winner

^Preakness Stakes winner

#Belmont Stakes winner

Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard

RK. HORSE PTS

1.Tacitus ......................................... 150

2.Omaha Beach .................. 137.5

3.Vekoma ....................................... 110

4.Plus Que Parfait .......................... 104

5.Roadster ...................................... 100

6.By My Standards ........................ 100

7.Maximum Security ..................... 100

8.Game Winner .......................85

9.Code of Honor .............................. 74

10.Haikal .......................................... 70

11.Improbable ........................65

12.War of Will .................................. 60

13. Long Range Toddy .............53.5

14.Tax ............................................... 52

15.Cutting Humor ............................ 50

16.Win Win Win ............................... 50

17.Country House ....................50

18.Gray Magician ............................. 41

19.Spinoff ......................................... 40

20.Master Fencer (JPN) .................. 19

21.Bodexpress ................................. 40

22.Signalman ................................... 38

23.Anothertwistafate ........................ 38

24.Sueno ...............................32

25.Bourbon War .............................. 31

26.Instagrand ................................... 30

27.Mucho Gusto .............................. 24

28.Knicks Go .................................... 20

29.Owendale .................................... 20

30.Outshine ...................................... 20

Oaklawn horses in BOLD

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Jockey Mike Smith celebrates Saturday after winning his third Arkansas Derby. He also won in 2012 (Bodemeister) and 2008 (Gayego).
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Jockey Mike Smith takes Omaha Beach around the first turn in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs. Omaha Beach won the race in 1:49.91 to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Fans watch as horses enter the paddock during Arkansas Derby Day at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Contestants in the Derby Day hat contest wait for the start of the event at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. The card featured three stakes races, including the 83rd Arkansas Derby won by Omaha Beach.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Race fans watch as the horses take the track before the seventh race at Oaklawn Park on Saturday in Hot Springs. An estimated crowd of 45,000 showed up for Arkansas Derby Day and wagered $2,839,080 on the 12-race card.

Sports on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Omaha Beach lands in Arkansas Derby

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