There will be some strong Omaha ties at this year’s Kentucky Derby, to be run May 4.
One of the prerace favorites is Omaha Beach, winner of the Arkansas Handicap at Oaklawn Park. The colt, trained by Richard Mandella, is by the sire War Front and named after the D-Day landing site.
Omaha Beach will be ridden by 53-year-old Mike Smith, who was an apprentice rider at Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in the mid-1980s. Smith won the Triple Crown last year aboard Justify.
Omahans Gary and Mary West are expected to have two entrants in the race — Game Winner and Maximum Security. Game Winner was the 2-year-old Breeders Cup Juvenile winner last year while Maximum Security won this year’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Derby at Horsemen’s Park
The annual hat contest will be part of the Derby festivities May 4 at Omaha’s Horsemen’s Park.
The facility, located at 63rd & Q, will offer $3,000 worth of prizes in the contest. The top five finalists will receive cash and the best overall hat will win $1,200.
General Manager Mike Newlin said Horsemen’s Park will be prepared for one of the facility’s busiest days.
“This is horse racing’s version of the Super Bowl,’’ he said. “Each year we make the Derby festivities bigger and better.’’
Newlin said more than 10,000 fans are expected and will wager more than $1 million during the day.
The facility will open at 8:30 a.m. on Derby day. Simulcast wagering from Churchill Downs begins at 9:30 a.m.
Live racing returns to Horsemen’s Park on May 11 and will run for five consecutive weekends through the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Fonner boosts purses
In an unprecedented accomplishment since Fonner Park began racing in 1954, the track’s administration has approved a third purse increase for the 2019 live racing season.
The first increase of 10% for all overnight purses began for entries on April 12, and an additional purse increase of 15% became effective for entries taken on April 19. The third purse increase of 12% was instituted this week.
The latest increase will cover the final five days of live racing. The meet at the Grand Island track will conclude May 4.
“We are extremely pleased to offer one final purse increase as we near the conclusion of our racing season,’’ Fonner Chief Executive Officer Bruce Swihart said. “The extended run of carryover in the popular Pick 5 jackpot generated significant mutuel handle that we are delighted to share.’’
Bosselman Stakes field set
A field of nine will go to the post Saturday in the $75,000 Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes at Fonner Park.
The early 5-2 favorite is Hollywood Critic, trained by Robertino Diodoro. The 7-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding has finished in the money in three of five starts this year and has career earnings of $313,634.
The second choice at 7-2 is Pain and Misery, trained by Marissa Black. The gelding, to be ridden by Chris Fackler, won this race last year.
The 1 1⁄16-mile race will be run as the ninth on the 10-race card that starts at 1:30 p.m.
The Bosselman/Fonner field (with jockey, weight and odds):
» 1. Coal Truth, Alberto Pusac, 117 pounds, 8-1
» 2. Go Gold, Mike Luark, 119, 10-1
» 3. Deep Explorer, Dakota Wood, 119, 9-2
» 4. Hollywood Critic, Jake Olesiak, 123, 5-2
» 5. Smarty Party Papa, Armando Martinez, 117, 10-1
» 6. Rock City Roadhog, Erik McNeil, 117, 6-1
» 7. Last Bad Habit, Ricardo Martinez, 117, 15-1
» 8. Pain and Misery, Chris Fackler, 123, 7-2
» 9. Laddie Boy, Cesar Ordaz, 117, 15-1
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