Omaha Beach Returns to Headline Churchill Downs Record Breaking September Meet

Posted on: September 14, 2019, 12:01h. 

Last updated on: September 14, 2019, 02:38h.

Churchill Downs resumed racing on Friday, starting its three-week September meet, and the track’s scheduled races are set to offer an average purse of $76,275, a 63 percent increase from last year’s record amount.

Omaha Beach, seen here winning the Grade I Arkansas Derby in April, missed out on a chance to run in the Grade I Kentucky Derby,. But the 3-year-old colt is scheduled to get chance to run at Churchill Downs later this month in the Grade III Ack Ack Stakes. (Image:

Just as Churchill was able to boost purses twice during its Spring Meet, the increase for the 11-date meet this month is a credit to River City Gaming, the historical horse racing (HHR) parlor owned by Churchill Downs Inc. Thanks to the revenues from the 1,000-machine venue, the purses for the September meet are now more than double what they were when the track started offering the meet six years ago.

Factoring in the eight graded and listed stakes races, the 109 races scheduled at Churchill Downs through Sept. 29 are expected to pay out $8.3 million in prize money.

The main attraction for the meet should be the return of a horse that missed out on his Kentucky Derby opportunity.

Omaha Beach, who was the morning line favorite in this year’s Kentucky Derby, is expected to race in the Grade III Ack Ack Stakes on Sept. 28. The Richard Mandella-trained colt won the second division of the Grade II Rebel Stakes and the Grade I Arkansas Derby, both at Oaklawn Park, in preparation for the Run for the Roses. However, an entrapped epiglottis diagnosed just days before the May 4 Derby has kept Omaha Beach sidelined ever since.

Future Derby, Oaks Contenders Featured Saturday

While Omaha Beach returns, bettors may also get a chance to see plenty of Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders for next year as well.

The first stakes races of the meet take place Saturday, with the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes and the Grade III Iroquois among them. Both races are for 2-year-olds running at 1-1/16th miles, with the Pocahontas for fillies and the Iroquois for colts. Both races also kick off the points series races for the Derby (Iroquois) and Oaks (Pocahontas). The winner of each will get 10 points toward their respective target race.

The morning line favorite for the Iroquois is Dennis’ Moment. He caught the attention of many race fans and handicappers when he broke his maiden with a 19-1/4-length win at Ellis Park in his second career start.

Dale Romans, Dennis’ Moment’s trainer, said the colt is one of the most promising horses he’s had in his stable. Romans, a Louisville native who grew up at the Churchill Downs, has more wins – 729 – than any other trainer in the history of the legendary track.

He’s hopeful his prized 2-year-old can give him his first Derby win.

We’ve had some very nice 2-year-olds and Dennis is right there with them. This horse is only a maiden winner, but the athleticism he shows us every morning he trains, and obviously his impressive 19 ¼-length maiden win, leads us to believe the future could be anything.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. will get the mount on Saturday on Dennis’ Moment, as Romans hopes to use the race as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Santa Anita.

Covfefe Also Scheduled

Other trainers will be looking to Churchill Downs to get their horses one final prep race before the Breeders Cup.

Trainer Brad Cox is expected to enter Covfefe in the Dogwood Stakes, a seven-furlong race on Sept. 21, to get his 3-year-old filly in shape for Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Sprint.

She’s coming off a win in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga last month.

The race “just fits nicely with the calendar and we can just run from our home base at Churchill,” Cox said. “Obviously, the Breeders’ Cup is our goal with her, and this race gives us good spacing to have plenty of training before we go to California.”