Omaha Beach Installed as Morning Line Favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

Posted on: May 1, 2019, 08:19h. 

Last updated on: May 1, 2019, 08:19h.

Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach was named the morning line favorite for 145th Kentucky Derby on Tuesday after the Richard Mandella-trained colt drew the No. 12 gate.

With Improbable on his heels, Omaha Beach wins the Arkansas Derby last month at Oaklawn Park. The win helped push the Richard Mandella-trained colt to favorite status for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. (Image: Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park)

The winner of his last three races, including two graded stakes, Omaha Beach received 4-1 odds for Saturday’s 1-1/4-mile race at Churchill Downs. He will be ridden by Mike Smith, who rode Justify to the Triple Crown last year.

“Perfect, I love it,” said Smith after Tuesday’s pill pull to determine post positions for the race that drew 20 entries. “Didn’t want to be down inside. I think I’m in a great spot.”

Mandella, who sat next to Smith, said since his jockey’s happy, he’s happy too.

Omaha Beach became the consensus choice after his impressive win at Oaklawn Park in the April 13 Arkansas Derby.  On a sloppy track, he took the lead at the end of the first turn. He would hold that the rest of the way, holding off a late charge by Improbable to win by a length.

An off track is likely for Saturday’s first leg of the Triple Crown as forecasters have called for a 100 percent chance of rain throughout the day.

Baffert’s Trio Right Behind

Improbable, trained by Bob Baffert, drew the fifth gate and received 6-1 morning line odds. He’s one of three Baffert colts in the field. Game Winner drew post 16, and track handicapper Mike Battaglia made the second choice at 5-1. He’ll go off next to Roadster, who got 6-1 odds after landing the 17th gate.

Game Winner, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last fall, lost to a charging Omaha Beach in the second division of the Rebel Stakes in March. Roadster, then ridden by Smith, caught up to his stablemate down the stretch to win the Santa Anita Derby last month.

Florent Geroux will ride Roadster in the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert, who has five Derby wins and trained Justify, said there’s less stress not having the favorite in his stable.

“When I had the favorite with (2015 Triple Crown winner American) Pharoah or Justify, it was their race to lose,” he said. “There are a lot of nice horses in this race. Omaha Beach, he deserves to be the favorite. We’ll just see how it plays out.”

Bettors may still make one of Baffert’s horses the favorite. Post time favorites have ended up in the winner’s circle in each of the last six years.

Omaha Beach and Game Winner are two of the four entrants who won multiple Derby prep races. The others include War of Will, trained by Mark Casse, and the Bill Mott-trained Tacitus.

With 20 entrants, Churchill Downs will install an auxiliary gate to accommodate horses starting in gates 15-20. Eleven times, the winner has come from the extension, including seven times since 2000. American Pharoah was the last to win from there, starting in the 15th gate.

Post time for Saturday’s race is 6:50 pm ET. NBC will broadcast the race.

The Field

Here’s how the field will line up on Saturday. In addition to the 20 entrants, Bodexpress is listed as an also eligible in case of a late scratch.

        1. War of Will (Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione) 20-1
        2. Tax (Junior Alvarado) 20-1
        3. By My Standards (Gabriel Saez) 20-1
        4. Gray Magician (Drayden Van Dyke) 50-1
        5. Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr.) 6-1
        6. Vekoma (Javier Castellano) 20-1
        7. Maximum Security (Luis Saez) 10-1
        8. Tacitus (Jose Ortiz) 10-1
        9. Plus Que Parfait (Ricardo Santana Jr.) 30-1
        10. Cutting Humor (Corey Lanerie) 30-1
        11. Haikal (Rajiv Maragh) 30-1
        12. Omaha Beach (Mike Smith) 4-1
        13. Code of Honor (John Velazquez) 15-1
        14. Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel) 1501
        15. Master Fencer (Julien Leparoux) 50-1
        16. Game Winner (Joel Rosario) 5-1
        17. Roadster (Florent Geroux) 6-1
        18. Long Range Toddy (Jon Court) 30-1
        19. Spinoff (Manny Franco) 30-1
        20. Country House (Flavien Prat) 30-1