(Omaha Beach / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)
From the Santa Anita Media Team:
MIKE SMITH, OMAHA BEACH, WINNER: “It is very humbling, I am a very blessed man and when you are blessed, opportunities arise, like I get to ride for Mr. Mandella and all kinds of things happen.
“He (Omaha Beach) just gives you that confidence, he eludes it. Mr. Mandella had him trained up so well for this race. I basically stayed as still as I could. I didn’t want to mess it up to be honest. He did it all on his own and he did it pretty handy today.
“It’s just amazing, and this horse speaks for everything. He’s just beautiful, so fun to be around, so fun to ride, and so fun to train. It just shows how great this horse really is. I’m so happy and so blessed to be a part of it. To surpass Jerry (Bailey) on Omaha Beach even makes it that much more special.
“It’s 217? Wow. You shocked me right there to be honest with you. You’re blessed to win one in this sport; 217, man I can’t even tell you.
“Jerry is someone that comes from my hometown. I was born in New Mexico but raised in Texas in El Paso where he’s from. His father was my dentist. I went to the same high school that he did. When his high school gave him an honor, I was in the grandstand watching him. I wasn’t even riding yet; I was just a kid. He’s always meant a lot to me, so to surpass him means a whole lot.
“It’s been an amazing career looking back on it. It’s too bad we don’t look back on things every day in situations like this to appreciate what you’ve been able to accomplish. Passing Jerry Bailey at anything is pretty amazing.”
RICHARD MANDELLA, OMAHA BEACH, WINNER: Asked if he was surprised with the easy victory: “He was supposed to run like this.”
Asked if he’s as good as any Mandella has trained: “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.”
Mandella was asked how he felt about Omaha Beach going to stud after his final start, in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 25: “He’s like a son; he’s better than a son. He makes me money; he doesn’t cost money. I thought about it a lot and I should have spoken to Mr. Porter when he was a two year old and suggest castrating him, and I still haven’t. He’s a great horse.
Mandella said the agenda calls for Omaha Beach to leave for Florida on Dec. 30, “so we’ll be in Florida.” Asked about Mike Smith setting a career record of 217 Grade I stakes wins, passing Jerry Bailey (216): “What can you say about Mike? He just keeps doing it over and over.
“This is really special for us, Opening Day at Santa Anita, after all the trouble we have been through this year, this place is The Great Race Place and we all need to remember that.”
NOTES: The winning owner is Rick Porter who races as Fox Hill Farms, Inc.