Notes & Quotes From the G1 Arkansas Derby: Omaha Beach

(Omaha Beach winning the Arkansas Derby on Saturday / Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)

From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:

Winning trainer Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach: “He looked like he was well within himself and Mike (Smith) just let him enjoy his job, just stride out and go where he went. My first thought was, ‘Jeez, don’t move too quick’ and then I thought, ‘Don’t be second-guessing Mike Smith’ – one of the greatest of all times. Just appreciate having him and can’t tell you how much I appreciate this horse and his owner (Rick Porter). We’d already ran in the slop at home, so that wasn’t much of a concern. He’s a very tractable horse. I don’t think we need to pick a surface.”

Winning Owner Rick Porter, Omaha Beach: “I think the horse certainly fits with the other horses. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and see how things are going. We’ll decide, probably, tonight (regarding the Kentucky Derby).”

Winning jockey Mike Smith, Omaha Beach: I had a great trip. Little nerve wracking in the gate because a few of them didn’t want to load, but he handled it all well. He got a little uptight, but then relaxed. He jumped extremely well. There were several horses that wanted the lead. Mr. Mandella has been teaching him in the morning to break off strong and then relax. He did just that. Picked a nice little spot and stayed right there. His cruising speed just takes him up there. I just basically tried to stay out of way. He’s doing is to easy, I’m better off letting him than fighting him.

On having to make a decision between Omaha Beach and Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster on who to ride in the Kentucky Derby May 4: “It’s a lovely decision to have. We’re going to go back and see how everyone comes back and go from there. Evaluate the situation. Then my agent will make the decision. That’s why I pay him.”

Trainer Bob Baffert, second with Improbable: “The horse, happy with the way he ran. I was a little bit worried in the starting gate. He was acting up in there. I had a few moments there of maybe he was going to rear up or do something and get left. Luckily, they unloaded him and put him back and he left there well. I thought Jose Ortiz did a masterful job of riding him. We got beat by a good horse. They showed how these California horses are good horses.”

Baffert said Improbable will be pointed for the Kentucky Derby, adding he believes the colt doesn’t need blinkers (raced in the equipment for the first time in the Arkansas Derby).

Trainer Bill Mott, third with Country House: “We’ll talk to the owners (about the Kentucky Derby). That’s what we were looking for (points), and he ran well.”

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., fourth on Laughing Fox: “We had a great trip. We didn’t win, but I feel like we did because he improved so much off his last race. He’s a good horse.”


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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