Omaha Beach moved ahead early before holding off favored Improbable to win the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby by a length Saturday at Oaklawn Park, earning 100 points and vaulting himself into second place on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
After entering the day 19th in the standings with 37.5 points, the dark bay colt became one of the key contenders by winning the $1 million final Derby qualifier. Starting from the No. 3 post at the Arkansas track, Omaha Beach was up front by the halfway point on a sloppy track and dueled Bob Baffert-trained Improbable the rest of the way. The horse trained by Richard Mandella earned his second consecutive graded stakes victory and third overall in four starts in 2019.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Omaha Beach covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.91 and paid $5.40, $3 and 2.80.
Improbable returned $3.60 and $3, and Country House paid $4.20 to show.
At Keeneland in Kentucky in the other Derby prep race, Owendale rallied to take charge entering the stretch and went on to win the $200,000 Lexington Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Anothertwistafate to earn 20 points.
Though the bay colt is outside the points cutoff for the Derby, he earned his second win in three starts this year and first stakes triumph. Starting from the No. 8 post, Owendale made his way through the 10-horse field into the lead at the stretch and eventually drew clear in the Grade 3 race. It marked a big turnaround for the Brad Cox-trained horse after an eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 16.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, Owendale covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14 and paid $27.40, $10 and $5.60.
Anothertwistafate returned $3.40 and $2.60, and Sueno paid $2.80.