With just 10 horses entered, the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita features one of the smallest fields of any race at the November 1-2 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. It also contains one of the most deserving favorites in #5 Omaha Beach.
Omaha Beach showed tremendous potential during the winter and spring. A nine-length maiden win in the slop at Santa Anita was followed by back-to-back pace-tracking triumphs in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel Stakes (G2) and 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. In both races, Omaha Beach showed the ability to make a big mid-race move and sustain it through the finish line.
An entrapped epiglottis forced Omaha Beach to miss the Triple Crown series, and additional training setbacks throughout the summer and fall caused him to skip a few other targets. The son of War Front finally returned to action in the six-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) on October 5, rallying from just off the pace to win by a head.
Omaha Beach had every excuse to lose the Sprint Championship; he was returning from a long layoff and cutting back sharply in distance. But he showed impressive tenacity in the final furlong, rallying up the rail to beat the talented sprinter Shancelot in a gutsy performance.
In the weeks since, Omaha Beach has continued to train sharply for Richard Mandella, who has recorded nine Breeders’ Cup victories at Santa Anita. The two-turn configuration of the Dirt Mile should be perfect for Omaha Beach since he’s already demonstrated the ability to win at the Grade 1 level running long. He fits well in terms of speed figures and should only improve with the benefit of a sprint sharpener under his belt. I don’t think anyone will beat him.
As a result, I plan to key Omaha Beach on top of all my wagers in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Underneath, I’ll favor #4 Mr. Money, a son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents. Three-year-olds have a strong record in the Dirt Mile, and Mr. Money has demonstrated a winning tendency this season, rattling off four consecutive Grade 3 triumphs while defeating future Grade 1 winners Hog Creek Hustle and Math Wizard.
Yes, Mr. Money came up a neck short against Math Wizard in the September 21 Pennsylvania Derby (G1), but I think Mr. Money’s effort was better than it first appears. Facing a small field, Mr. Money wound up setting the pace for the first time in his career, and he didn’t react kindly to the change in tactics, fighting his rider during the early stages of the race. A return to pace-tracking tactics (and a slight cutback in distance) could trigger a sharper effort from Mr. Money.
In contrast, I’ll side against #2 Improbable. His talent is obvious, but this Grade 1 winner has had gate issues throughout his career, most recently when blowing the start in the Pennsylvania Derby, where he finished fourth. Even when he breaks alertly, it takes him a sixteenth of a mile or so to reach top speed. As a result, drawing post two could be a significant issue since it increases the chance of Improbable getting boxed in behind horses early on, a position from which he’s never run particularly well.
- $26 to win on #5 Omaha Beach
- $3 trifecta: 5 with 4 with 1,3,7,9 ($12)
- $3 trifecta: 5 with 1,3,7,9 with 4 ($12)
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Entries
|PP||Horse||Trainer||Morning Line Odds||Jockey|
|1||Giant Expectations||Peter A. Eurton||12-1||Jose Ortiz|
|2||Improbable||Bob Baffert||3-1||Rafael Bejarano|
|3||Spun to Run||Juan Carlos Guerrero||6-1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.|
|4||Mr. Money||W. Bret Calhoun||6-1||Gabriel Saez|
|5||Omaha Beach||Richard E. Mandella||8-5||Mike Smith|
|6||Ambassadorial||Jane Chapple-Hyam||30-1||Jamie Spencer|
|7||Coal Front||Todd A. Pletcher||6-1||Javier Castellano|
|8||Blue Chipper||Kim Young Kwan||20-1||Flavien Prat|
|9||Diamond Oops||Patrick L. Biancone||15-1||Julien Leparoux|
|10||Snapper Sinclair||Steven M. Asmussen||30-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.|