Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach was the morning line favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby until he had to be scratched just 72 hours prior to the race because on an entrapped epiglottis. Omaha Beach, who began his career in 2006 at Oaklawn Park, had 11 different trainers and made the last start of a 61-race career at Parx on Feb. 19, 2012.
Welcome to the world of horse names where once a horse turns 10 and is five years past his last start, the name becomes available for re-use, with some very notable exceptions.
When Rick Porter was told Omaha Beach became available after he purchased a yearling colt by War Front, he eagerly scooped up the name to honor the men he said “saved the world” 75 years ago on D-Day. Porter’s Omaha Beach has started seven times, with three wins, three seconds, a third and $1,121,800 in earnings, and a very promising future once he returns to training.
The “other” Omaha Beach raced 10 times at Parx Racing (PRX) and 22 times at Philadelphia Park (PHA), the abbreviations on the “Daily Racing Form” past performances. So same track, different name and same name, different horse.
The older Omaha Beach was born in 2003 and was eligible to be claimed in 53 of his 61 races. In fact, the grandson of Storm Cat was claimed for as much as $75,000 and as little as $10,000. The younger Omaha Beach, born in 2016, won’t be entered in claiming races, not after being purchased for $500,000, with stakes races in his past and future (perhaps including the Pennsylvania Derby) and a stallion deal already negotiated.
If Omaha Beach goes on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic or be named champion 3-year-old or a champion in 2020, he will be the last Omaha Beach to run in North America. Those are among the criteria for a “permanent” name.
The criteria also include horses that are in the Hall of Fame, have been named Horse of the Year, won an Eclipse Award or have won more than $2 million. It also includes horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Turf and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
So there will be no more horses named Discreet Lover. That is a permanent name for the Parx-based 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner.
Nor will there be another Secretariat or Affirmed or Justify. No more Beholder or Ruffian or Smarty Jones.
Horse names can be no more than 18 letters, with spaces and punctuation marks counting as letters. Living persons have to give permission for their names to be used.
A name can be reserved for exactly one year. According to Trish Bowman, who worked at the Jockey Club in Lexington, Ky. and is now the horse identifier at Laurel Park and Pimlico, someone reserved the name Philly Special the day after the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018. If the name is not used in a year, it goes back into the pool.
So far, there is no Philly Special in the DRF database, but keep an eye out. A horse with the name eventually could appear at the races. And after that horse finishes racing, unless the name becomes permanent, there could be another Philly Special someday. Eagles fans can’t wait.
-By Dick Jerardi