Can Omaha Beach Buck Historical Trends for Arkansas Derby Winners at 2019 Kentucky Derby?

Can Omaha Beach Buck Historical Trends for Arkansas Derby Winners at 2019 Kentucky Derby? article feature image
Credit:

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Omaha Beach

  • After winning the Arkansas Derby in April, Omaha Beach is the favorite to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
  • What does history say about his chances? Evan Abrams takes a look.

Editor’s note: Omaha Beach was scratched from the race late Wednesday.

Many trainers have used the Arkansas Derby as a tune-up race for the Kentucky Derby — the first leg of the Triple Crown — but almost none have been able to parlay a win into another at Churchill Downs for the ultimate start to racing season.

Can Omaha Beach, the 3-1 favorite to win the 2019 Kentucky Derby, buck that trend?

Only three of the 41 Arkansas Derby winners to then race in the Kentucky Derby over the past 50 years ended up winning at Churchill Downs:

  • American Pharoah, 2015: Went on to win the Triple Crown.
  • Smarty Jones, 2004: Won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before finishing second at the Belmont Stakes.
  • Sunny’s Halo, 1983: Finished sixth at the Preakness.

Eleven of the 41 (26.8%) finished in the trifecta.

Even without history on his side, Omaha Beach does have one thing going for him: The three horses to pull off back-to-back wins — American Pharoah (3-1), Smarty Jones (4-1) and Sunny’s Halo (5-1) — all went off at odds of 5-1 or shorter. And like Omaha Beach, American Pharoah and Smarty Jones were also the favorites heading into the Kentucky Derby.

In 1983, Sunny’s Halo went off at 5-1, along with seven other horses at 6-1 or shorter — a stacked field back in the day.

When you look at how more recent Arkansas Derby winners have done in the Kentucky Derby — outside of American Pharoah and Smarty Jones — it hasn’t been pretty: Over the past 20 years, the 18 horses to win the Arkansas Derby and then race in the Kentucky Derby have averaged just a 9.8-placed finish, with only three of the past 11 finishing in the top-three.

If Omaha Beach can win the Kentucky Derby on Saturday after taking home the Arkansas Derby by a length over Improbably, he will become just the fourth horse to win out of the 12th position at the derby and the first since Canonero II in 1971.