Mike Smith and Omaha Beach held off a late challenge from Improbable to take the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.One Flew South, at odds of 61/1, took early control through a 1/4 mile of 23.03, but Omaha Beach and Smith inherited the lead at the 1/2 mile marker in 47.50. Omaha Beach then took control on the backstretch, went on sweetly and never looked back.Improbable made a sustained rally while on his wrong lead to slightly pressure the winner, but it seemed he was in a drive, while Omaha Beach was going easily and the outcome was hardly ever in doubt.Improbable, the second choice in the wagering had several problems that may have contributed to his defeat. He had gate issues to begin with but he just never seemed comfortable in his new blinkers, the rail or the mud kickback. He was also distracted and his head was cocked in the stretch during his rally. As aforementioned he was on the wrong lead in the stretch. In addition, there’s the fact that this horse started on the rail, but was 4-5 wide throughout the race and even wider in the lane. Whether or not he would have ever got by the winner is debatable but it’s a fact none of these issues helped his cause.It was a long way back to Country House in third and Laughing Fox who ran fourth.Omaha Beach ran the 1-1/8 contest in 1:49.91 over a sloppy course.The two top finishers are both headed to the Kentucky Derby, although some jockeys and the connections might have to make some crucial decisions on who rides who. Specifically Mike Smith who won the Santa Anita Derby aboard Kentucky Derby contender Roadster. Either way Mike goes, it looks like trainer Richard Mandella is heading to Louisville with a top contender for the Run for the Roses. Jose Ortiz will likely stick with Tacitus on who he won the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial as opposed to Arkansas Derby runner-up Improbable.Arkansas Derby Results:Omaha Beach $5.40 3.00 2.80Improbable 3.60 3.00Country House 4.20Laughing Fox$1 Exacta $7.50.50-cent Tri $17.45.10-cent Superfecta $31.44photo courtesy of Brian Leckie
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