LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - On Saturday at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs , Arkansas, Omaha Beach splashed across a sloppy track and held off Improbable by a length to capture the Arkansas Derby. The winning colt, trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, just might now be the post time favorite in three weeks at the Kentucky Derby.
Omaha Beach made a big move midway down the stretch to shoot to the front. He still had the lead on the turn for home but Improbable began making his big push. But in late stretch, Omaha Beach dug in and held off Improbable. The Arkansas Derby triumph, coupled with his win over the highly-regarded Game Winner in March’s Rebel Stakes, leaves Omaha Beach as perhaps the leading contender for the Run for the Roses.
Both winner and runner-up both needed top efforts to gain points on the Kentucky Derby scoreboard. They are now both safely in the field, as is Country House, whose third place finish at Oaklawn left that runner at number 17 on the points list.
Improbable put in a top notch effort and still gives trainer Bob Baffert a solid 1-2-3 punch for May 4. Baffert also has Santa Anita Derby winner, Roadster and the runner-up in that race, Game Winner.
Omaha Beach’s jockey, Mike Smith has an interesting decision ahead as he also pilots Roadster.