Ten Central Kentucky farms pursued the breeding rights for Omaha Beach following the son of War Front 's victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and his subsequent rise to become the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
While all the suitors were the biggest players in the Thoroughbred stallion market and have the wherewithal to give Omaha Beach the best launch possible after he retires from racing, owner Rick Porter could not be happier to see B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm prevail. The farm announced April 30 it has an agreement to acquire the colt's breeding rights for an undisclosed amount.
"When I found out Wayne was interested, that really excited me, and I was hoping we could make the deal with him," said Porter, who races Omaha Beach in the name of Fox Hill Farms. "Sure, the money is important in this business, but that the horse is going to the right people is as important."
The connection between Porter and Hughes goes far beyond their long-term commitments to breeding and racing Thoroughbreds. If it weren't for Hughes, Porter says matter-of-factly, he wouldn't be alive today.
More than two years ago, Porter was deep into a three-year battle with cancer and had exhausted his conventional treatment options. His friend Anthony Manganaro reached out to Hughes because he knew Spendthrift's owner had been financially supporting experimental treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital. Hughes was able to get Porter admitted into a clinical trial.
"At the time, Wayne and I were not close. We knew each other in passing at the sales but never sat down to have a conversation or have lunch," Porter said. "I had no chance, and he got me into the program. I'm in full remission now and as of June it will have been two years. He was not a close friend at the time, but he is now."
With the deal done, the focus for the two racing veterans shifts to May 4, when Omaha Beach—under the care of trainer Richard Mandella—will try to deliver the most coveted prize in America.
"We believe Omaha Beach is one of the best stallion prospects to come around in recent years and see him as a big part of the future at Spendthrift," Hughes said of the colt out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming. "He is truly a rare package—elite looks, pedigree, sire power, speed, class, you name it. He has everything and we feel the best is yet to come for him."
Omaha Beach is a half brother to champion and multiple grade 1 winner Take Charge Brandi (by Giant's Causeway) and a full brother to group 1-placed winner Courage Under Fire. The colt's second dam, Take Charge Lady, is the dam of champion and top-10 second crop sire Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) and second-ranked third-crop sire Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy).
Omaha Beach was bred in Kentucky in the name of the Charming Syndicate. His dam was bred by Eaton Sales and sold at the 2006 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $3.2 million to trainer Todd Pletcher as agent. The filly broke her maiden at 3 in her first start with James Scatuorchio listed as her owner and then raced twice more in a partnership between Scatuorchio and Michael Tabor.
The Derby favorite is Charming's fifth foal and fourth winner from as many starters. This year Charming is being bred to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify , who stands at Ashford Stud.
Omaha Beach was offered at the 2017 Keeneland September sale, where he was bought back by Eaton Sales on a final bid of $625,000. Eaton's Reiley McDonald called Porter and pitched the colt. The last time McDonald had contacted Porter about a horse it was about a Danzig colt named Hard Spun , who became a grade 1 winner for Porter and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1).
Porter told BloodHorse earlier he'd bought Omaha Beach for $500,000 and sent him to trainer Larry Jones in Kentucky before he was sent on to Mandella in California.
As might be expected with a son of War Front, Mandella started Omaha Beach on the grass for his first three races with a third and two seconds to show for those efforts.
"His works on the dirt were always good but after those first two races, he really started looking like a star. I didn't see that in his tries on the turf, so I said let's do it where he is doing it in the morning—on the dirt," Mandella said.
Omaha Beach produced a nine-length win in his second start on dirt and followed that dazzling performance with wins in one division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby.
Since arriving at Churchill Downs, Omaha Beach has thrived. He breezed five furlongs in :59 April 27 in his final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby. He'll break from post 12 Saturday with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the irons.
"It is like pennies from heaven again, but it is more than pennies," Porter said. "B. Wayne Hughes and his team have a world-class operation and will provide Omaha Beach with every opportunity to become a leading sire. Omaha Beach has been a wonderful blessing to me and my family, and I hope we get to enjoy many more thrills with him at the racetrack."