All eyes are on the Richard Mandella-trained Omaha Beach, who highlights the pre-entries for the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. In all, an eye-catching 14 horses have pre-entered the race, which holds a purse of $1,000,000. The Grade 1 event will be contested at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.
Omaha Beach certainly has the most to gain with a win in this spot. The son of War Front was on his way to becoming the favorite in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) before throat surgery forced him to miss several months of action. After breaking his maiden at Santa Anita Park in February, he shipped to Oaklawn Park for his next two starts and came home a winner in both the Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1). Those victories had everyone buzzing, but he wasn’t seen again until the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), where he returned with a tremendous victory over Shancelot while going 6 furlongs. That win had his connections thinking of also pre-entering both the Sprint and the 1 1/4-mile Classic, but the two-turn mile appears to suit him best.
Fellow 3-year-old Improbable could prove to be his biggest challenger coming into this race. Like Omaha Beach, Improbable was at one time a top choice to win the Kentucky Derby (G1). In fact, he went off as the favorite in both that race and the Preakness Stakes (G1). He was unable to win either of those, but he did pick up a win two starts back in the Shared Belief Stakes over the highly-talented King Jack. Last time out, he shipped to Parx for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), but he could do no better than fourth after acting up in the paddock and the gate. The Bob Baffert trainee has run eye-catching workouts heading into this race.
Another 3-year-old of interest in the race is Mr. Money, who has won four of his last five starts. After a poor Kentucky Derby Trail effort, he got on track by winning the Pat Day Mile (G3) and the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, then took the Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Grand and the West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer. Those victories led to a try against Grade 1 company last time out, where he finished second by a neck in the Pennsylvania Derby behind Math Wizard. Cutting back to this distance should be to his liking, and his sire, Goldencents, won this race on two separate occasions.
One horse with plenty of experience in the Dirt Mile is Giant Expectations, who will make his third appearance in this race. In 2017, he finished sixth behind Battle of Midway, while last year, he was a distant fifth while trailing City of Light. He is winless in five starts this year, but he has hit the board four times. His last race was the best effort of the season when he finished second by a nose in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) at Del Mar. This horse always run well at Santa Anita Park and will likely appreciate the distance.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Coal Front is another older horse to watch in this spot. He seems to be regaining his form just in time for a nice Breeders’ Cup effort. Earlier in the year, he put up an amazing performance in Dubai, winning the Godolphin Mile at this distance by 3/4 of a length. That victory elevated his status quite a bit, but it also took a lot out of him. He returned to the United States and finished seventh in the Met Mile (G1) and third in the Monmouth Cup (G3). He finally returned to his winning ways last time out with a solid effort in the Parx Dirt Mile.
Snapper Sinclair adds spice to this race after winning the Tourist Mile Stakes on turf last time out at Kentucky Downs. This versatile colt by City Zip is solid on both surfaces, though, and the 1-mile distance is where he gives his best efforts. In his last try on dirt, he finished a solid third at Mountaineer in the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3). This year, he has three wins from eight starts and eclipsed the $1 million mark in career earnings with that last victory.
The other pre-entries include Ambassadorial, Blue Chipper, Catalina Cruiser (second preference), Diamond Oops (second preference), Hog Creek Hustle (second preference), Spun to Run, Trais Fluors (second preference), and Whitmore (second preference).