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ARCADIA, CA – On a day that held 14 graded stakes events across the country – including six Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events – Omaha Beach and Shancelot saved the best for last, with the former nailing the latter at the wire in Saturday’s thrilling edition of the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1).
With the victory, Omaha Beach earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park this November.
Breaking from post 2 under Mike Smith as the 5/2 second choice, Omaha Beach bobbled slightly but quickly recovered and sat within striking distance of Shancelot. Sent from post 3 as the 1/5 favorite, Shancelot posted opening fractions of :21.87 and :44.38.
Midway through the far turn, Omaha Beach began to draw near to the bettors’ choice. Straightening for home, Shancelot angled off of the rail slightly, allowing Omaha Beach an opportunity to shoot up the gap inside.
The two fought tooth and nail to the finish, with the win up for grabs with every step. In the final jump, Omaha Beach surged forward and crossed a head in front of Shancelot at the wire. The Richard Mandella trainee completed the 6-furlong sprint over the fast main track in a final time of 1:08.79.
“He broke extremely well,” Smith said. “Almost too well. He slipped a little leaving there, but man, he settled right in behind them really nice. He was loaded coming off that turn. Mr. Mandella really had him ready today. His last work was brilliant and he ran the way he worked. His last work was his best one, no question. Today, he hit his best stride late.”
Despite being caught late, Shancelot was 2 1/2 lengths clear of Flagstaff to secure second. California Street, Horse Greedy, and One Flew South completed the order of finish.
Omaha Beach’s win was his fourth straight and came in his first start since being scratched from the Kentucky Derby (G1) as the morning-line favorite. Prior to that, he had won the Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park after breaking his maiden at Santa Anita Park. The 3-year-old son of War Front now sports a record of 8-4-3-1 with $1,301,800 earned for owner Fox Hill Farms.
“I’m just very relieved to have him back,” Mandella said. “This horse has a heart of gold and he’s got the greatest personality of any horse I’ve ever had. I would say anything’s possible.”
Mandella was non-committal about where Omaha Beach would make his next start, other than here in less than a month.
“We’re gonna run in the Breeders’ Cup!” he exclaimed when asked if he would choose the Sprint, the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1), or the Longines Classic (G1). “For now, I’ll just drink that big bottle of champagne and think it over.”
Omaha Beach returned $7.20 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Shancelot brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Flagstaff paid $2.10 to show.
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