First-crop sires: Hopeful-bound Pirate makes waves for Omaha Beach

August 18th, 2023

With his fashionable pedigree and exceptional record on the racetrack, Omaha Beach is eligible to become a top sire.

As the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite who unfortunately had to scratch, the Spendthrift Farm stallion figures to have promising prospects on the Triple Crown trail. Indeed, one of his sharpest winners so far, Saratoga debut star Pirate, is a half-brother to Preakness (G1) scorer National Treasure. Moreover, Omaha Beach has both dirt and turf aptitudes, giving him additional opportunities to pad his stats.

Let’s explore Omaha Beach’s deep pedigree and race record before catching up with Pirate and his other winners.

Well-named son of War Front from a stellar family

Omaha Beach is by War Front, a Grade 2-winning sprinter on dirt who’s emerged as a sire of international import on turf. His top European-based performers include Declaration of War, a near-miss third in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in his lone dirt attempt. Among his stateside leaders, War of Will won the 2019 Preakness and added a major turf prize, the 2020 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1). War Front’s versatility at stud echoes that of his own globally significant sire, Danzig, and paternal grandsire, the breed-shaping Northern Dancer.

Omaha Beach’s dam, Charming, is a blueblood daughter of Seeking the Gold and Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. Seeking the Gold is another American dirt celebrity capable of siring international stars, chief among them the great Dubai Millennium, along with such U.S. standouts as Hall of Famer Heavenly Prize.

Take Charge Lady, a multiple Grade 1 victress of more than $2.4 million, has excelled herself by producing three Grade 1 winners – champion Will Take Charge and Take Charge Indy, both sires themselves, and As Time Goes By. Take Charge Lady’s daughters are picking up the torch; I’ll Take Charge is the dam of current Suburban (G2) hero Charge It, and Charming has left her mark.

Omaha Beach is a half-brother to champion two-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi. After upsetting the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), she secured her divisional Eclipse Award by taking the Delta Downs Princess (G3) and Starlet (G1). Omaha Beach’s older full brother, Courage Under Fire, also peaked at two when placing in the 2016 Phoenix (G1) for Aidan O’Brien.

Offered at Keeneland September as a yearling, Omaha Beach did not reach his reserve price when bidding maxed out at $625,000. The late Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms bought the colt privately, and honored World War II veterans by naming him after the pivotal landing site of “D-Day,” the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944.

It wasn’t the first time that Porter had evoked wartime memories. His Normandy Invasion was a bold fourth in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Battle of Midway, alluding to the game-changer in the Pacific Theater, was third in the 2017 Run for the Roses before beating elders in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

Omaha Beach’s range on the racetrack

A three-time Grade 1 winner from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, Omaha Beach showed unusual range on the racetrack. If he hadn’t been forced to miss the two biggest races of his life, he could have entered the stratosphere. An entrapped epiglottis ruled him out of the Kentucky Derby as the morning line favorite. The 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1) was intended as his grand finale, only for Omaha Beach to develop filling in an ankle and head straight to stud.

Trained throughout his career by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach started out in turf routes as a juvenile. He placed in all three tries in turf maidens, including two near-misses, before switching to the main track at three. A stumbling start compromised his dirt debut, resulting in another second, but he then put it all together. It’s worth wondering what a mature Omaha Beach might have done on turf. He was performing too well on dirt, though, to go back to the grass.

A nine-length maiden romper in the slop at Santa Anita, Omaha Beach shipped out to Oaklawn Park and elevated his profile on the Derby trail. In a division of the Rebel (G2), he fought bravely to edge champion two-year-old Game Winner. Omaha Beach followed up in a sloppy Arkansas Derby (G1), defeating Improbable, a future champion older dirt male, and Country House, who would be awarded the Kentucky Derby via disqualification.

Aside from his Oaklawn form strongly suggesting that he’d play a major role in the Derby, Omaha Beach figured to relish the sloppy conditions at Churchill. His forward style would have put him right in the mix too, leaving a “what-might-have-been” in his absence.

Omaha Beach confirmed his rare talent that fall, beginning with a comeback victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1). The six-furlong distance should have been a bit short for him in principle, let alone at that level, off a nearly six-month layoff from a 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep. Nevertheless, Omaha Beach still got up to beat trip specialist Shancelot in a blistering 1:08.79. Shancelot went on to finish runner-up to champion Mitole in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Omaha Beach’s range gave him a panoply of Breeders’ Cup options, but his connections – by then including Spendthrift – preferred the Dirt Mile as the most sensible spot for his second start off the layoff. Unfortunately, he didn’t break well, found himself in uncharacteristically poor position, and ended up closing for second.

The Malibu (G1) was the next logical target, and Omaha Beach delivered a tour de force in what turned out to be his final outing. Gliding home by 2 3/4 lengths under wraps, he advanced his record to 10-5-4-1, $1,651,800.

When asked how Omaha Beach stacked up against his past stars, Mandella told Santa Anita publicity:

“I can’t think of one better, although he hasn’t been around long enough of those that stayed forever, Beholder and them, but probably the few times he ever got beat were my fault.”

Entering stud for a $45,000 fee, Omaha Beach was trimmed to $35,000 in 2021, and he stood for $30,000 in both 2022 and 2023. His progeny have been hot commodities from the beginning, in the auction ring, in pre-training, and now on the racetrack.

Omaha Beach has seven winners so far. At this writing, he also has more black-type performers (three) than the other members of his North American freshman class.

Pirate makes swashbuckling debut

There was no surprise attack when Harrell Ventures and Starlight Racing’s Pirate was launched in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden at Saratoga on July 15. The Todd Pletcher pupil went off as the 0.35-1 favorite, and his tactics on the rail were straightforward. Hustled along by Irad Ortiz Jr., Pirate had the speed to grab a slim early lead, soon beat off his pace rival, and drew away by three lengths in a final time of 1:04.89. Runner-up Just Steel graduated next time out at the Spa.

Accorded “Rising Star” status by Thoroughbred Daily News, Pirate is on course for the Sept. 4 Hopeful (G1). He’ll try to outdo half-brother National Treasure by winning a Grade 1 at two. National Treasure, who also scored on debut at Del Mar, placed in last year’s American Pharoah (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He broke through with his first stakes victory in the Preakness.

Pirate was bred by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and sold for $350,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His dam, the Medaglia d’Oro mare Treasure, descends from a full sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault, tracing to a full sister to the legendary Man o’ War.

Alys Beach shows guts with inside move

Omaha Beach’s next debut winner at Saratoga, the filly Alys Beach, employed a different running style to prevail at 6 1/2 furlongs on July 30. An 8.30-1 chance for trainer Tom Amoss, she settled a few lengths off the pace, then rallied to score by a head. But Alys Beach did a couple of noteworthy things for a first-timer: she had no hesitation to storm through on the inside for Tyler Gaffalione, overtaking pacesetting favorite Mugen. Alys Beach had to make another move when deep closer Life Talk swooped wider out, fighting back to edge away at the wire in 1:18.58.

Greg Tramontin’s $120,000 Keeneland September purchase is out of the Bernardini mare Pray for Leslie. This is the family of Grade 3 scorer Hidden Connection as well as Grade 1 victor Capo Bastone.

Hot Beach breaks maiden in stakes

Boardshorts Stables’ Hot Beach was overturned as the odds-on favorite in her July 7 unveiling at Ellis Park, but she was a clear second in a pretty useful maiden. The winner, Here U Come Again, came back to place second in the Adirondack (G3).  

Hot Beach promptly advanced to stakes company herself in the $150,000 Ellis Park Debutante and broke her maiden, becoming the first black-type winner for Omaha Beach. Trained by Brian Lynch and piloted by Declan Cannon, the 2.20-1 chance secured a stalking trip from the outside post 9 and pulled two lengths clear. Her time for six furlongs (1:24.32) was much faster than the males in the Ellis Park Juvenile (1:25.21) won by 60-1 longshot Baytown Chatterbox.

A $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, Hot Beach is the fourth stakes winner produced by Hot Water, following multiple Grade 3 scorer Scalding; Tracksmith; and Hot and Sultry, third in this spring's Apple Blossom (G1). Hot Water, a descendant of Hall of Fame sprinter Xtra Heat, is by Medaglia d’Oro (thus Hot Beach is bred on the same cross as Pirate).

Another Omaha Beach filly, Easy Red, regressed to eighth in the Ellis Park Debutante. Two starts back, she gained black-type when third in the Debutante S. that was transferred from Churchill Downs to Ellis Park. The Doug O’Neill pupil had won at first asking May 27 at Churchill, where she overcame a slow start to justify odds-on favoritism by a head. Out of the Pulpit mare Blessings Count, who is also responsible for British stakes winner Rodaini, Easy Red might be worth trying on turf.

Cynane competes at Royal Ascot

Omaha Beach registered his first winner as a sire on the Belmont Park turf, as Cynane sped in wire-to-wire fashion going five furlongs on May 11. By scampering to a 2 3/4-length decision in :57.61 on the Widener course, she advertised herself as a Royal Ascot prospect for her British expat trainer, Tom Morley. Cynane didn’t get the firm turf she wanted in the Queen Mary (G2), winding up 10th in a 26-filly field, but she can regroup in quicker conditions stateside.

The $250,000 Keeneland September yearling was produced by Burning Arch, an Arch mare from the family of multiple Grade 1 turfiste Point of Entry and Hall of Famer Sky Beauty. Thus Cynane has the pedigree to progress over further. Morley is in fact plotting a stretch-out, with the Aug. 30 P.G. Johnson S. on the radar. Cynane’s maiden form got a boost when Sam’s Treasure, runner-up in their mutual debut, rolled to an impressive win on the Saratoga dirt.

Omaha Beach’s other daughter in the Queen Mary, Irish-based maiden Launch, checked in 14th. Although still winless from seven starts, she gained coveted Group black-type when third in the May 21 Naas Fillies’ Sprint (G3) to the class act Porta Fortuna and well-regarded Navassa Island.

Omaha Girl on the map for AMO Racing USA

Launch’s co-owner, AMO Racing, campaigns Omaha Girl as part of its U.S. division. Based at Monmouth Park with Jorge Delgado, the $400,000 Keeneland September acquisition was a determined debut winner sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs on June 3. Her subsequent fifth in the grassy Colleen S. is inconclusive, since she was behind early and spun out extremely wide turning for home. Note that she has not worked back.

Omaha Girl is a half-sister to Grade 3 turf marathoner Abaan and Grade 3-placed Chip Leader. Their dam is the multiple stakes-placed Tapit mare Anchorage, from the family of noted sire Broken Vow, and further back, champion Forever Together.

Normandy Hero rebounds at Ellis

Normandy Hero flopped as the favorite on debut July 1, fading to last behind Edified at Ellis Park, but he made amends over the same track Aug. 12. The Rodolphe Brisset juvenile was dropping into a maiden restricted to auction veterans who brought no more than $50,000. Bettors favored him again at 1.56-1, and he posted a front-running tally in 1:23.17 for seven furlongs. That time merited a 90 Brisnet Speed rating.