Sidelines with John Clay

With preps done, Omaha Beach tops Kentucky Derby media poll

From Horse Racing Nation:

If public opinion aligns with the 28 voters who submitted a ballot for this week’s edition of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Media Poll, well, meet your favorite.

Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Omaha Beach collected 15 first-place votes and shot to No. 1 in the rankings assembled each Monday by HorseRacingNation.com, surpassing Roadster, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner who held the top spot last week.

Game Winner, Tacitus and Improbable, the Arkansas Derby runner-up, rounded out the Top 5 in the list formed by representatives of racing industry trade publications and general news outlets.

“The cream finally has risen to the top,” said Steve Haskin, author of BloodHorse’s Derby Dozen.

“Omaha Beach has beaten Game Winner and Improbable, two of the three stars in Bob Baffert’s barn,” added John Clay, columnist at the Lexington Herald-Leader. “There’s every reason to think he can beat the third Baffert star, Roadster, as well.”

That’ll depend on who rides them, too.

Smith has all along had the assignment on Roadster, a debut winner sent to the sidelines for throat surgery to end his 2-year-old season. The son of Quality Road has returned to win twice around two turns, and the Hall of Fame jockey appeared to have an easy decision exiting the Santa Anita Derby.

A week later, Omaha Beach complicated plans.

“Omaha Beach may be a tough customer if Mike Smith picks him over Roadster,” said The Pressbox’s Gene McLean. “That would be a huge sign. Huge.”

Whomever ends up the favorite will have history on his side. Since Churchill Downs instituted the points qualifying system for the Kentucky Derby’s 2013 running, the top post time betting choice has won every edition.

Thee major prep winners — the Florida Derby (G1) hero Maximum Security, the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner Vekoma and By My Standards, who took the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his stakes debut — filled out Nos. 6-8.

Code of Honor, tied for eighth, Win Win Win and Tax were in the Top 10 inside of three weeks until race day.

“With the final preps in, one thing is certain: parity,” said Horse Racing Nation’s Mike Shutty. “You can make a win case for as many as eight horses, and the Kentucky Derby winner doesn’t necessarily go through California as many are conceding. Let the touting begin.”

Among notable movers this week, Long Range Toddy slipped six spots to No. 14 having missed the board in the Arkansas Derby. Bill Mott-trained Country House re-entered at 17th off a third-place effort at Oaklawn, while Gray Magician, now safely in the Top 20 on points, filled the final spot.

Japan’s Master Fencer, who has accepted an invitation to run in the Derby, received votes but didn’t garner enough support to enter the rankings. Meanwhile, Anothertwistafate, beaten favorite in Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes (G3), is hanging on to 19th as the highest-rated horse in need of defections to enter the prospective Derby field.

“This is going to one of the most wide open of Derbys,” said the Albany Times-Union’s Tim Wilkin. “Really, can make a case for 15 of them. Fun Kentucky Derby on the way.”

Kentucky Derby Media poll archive

Kentucky Derby Media poll

  • 1. Omaha Beach (15)
  • 2. Roadster (5)
  • 3. Game Winner (1)
  • 4. Tacitus (3)
  • 5. Improbable (1)
  • 6. Maximum Security (1)
  • 7. Vekoma
  • 8. By My Standards
  • 8. Code of Honor
  • 10. Win Win Win (1)
  • 11. Tax
  • 12. War of Will
  • 13. Haikal
  • 14. Long Range Toddy
  • 15. Spinoff
  • 16. Cutting Humor
  • 17. Country House
  • 18. Plus Que Parfait
  • 19. Anothertwistafate
  • 20. Gray Magician
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