Omaha, foaled at Claiborne Farm on March 24, 1932, was a seventeen hand chestnut colt sired by Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox and out of Flambino, a successful stakes mare by Claiborne Farm's top sire *Wrack. Flambino was the winner of the Gazelle Stakes, and had also finished third behind Chance Shot in the 1927 Belmont Stakes. Flambino's dam, 1921 Kentucky Oaks winner Flambette, also produced Gallette, the dam of the champion mare Gallorette, and La France, the dam of 1939 Kentucky Derby winner Johnstown. Flambino herself also produced Flares and Fleam. It was unnecessary to go beyond the first generation to see the quality of Omaha's breeding, but his name hinted at ancestors such as the Epsom Derby winners Bend Or and Ormonde.
Like his sire and his dam, Omaha was owned and bred by William Woodward's Belair Stud, and was trained by Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. Hopes were high for this first son of Gallant Fox, and he went even beyond the expectations.
Omaha's racing career began when he lost a photo finish to Sir Lamorah in a maiden race on June 18, 1934. Five days later he broke his maiden, but failed to win again as a two-year-old. He closed well to finish fourth in the U.S. Hotel Stakes behind Balladier, and finished fourth again in the Saratoga Special, this time behind Boxthorn.
The Belair colt got past Boxthorn the next time out, beating him by a length and a half, but ran out of ground before getting to Psychic Bid and placed second in the Sanford Memorial.
The Hopeful Stakes was next, and Psychic Bid was again the winner. Omaha made a late move, and was a head behind third place finisher Esposa at the wire. Rosemont was second.
Omaha's best race as a juvenile came in the Champagne Stakes. He was much closer to the pace, and pushed the season's top juvenile, Balladier, to a new track record, losing by only a nose.
After a fourth place effort in the Futurity, in which Balladier was upset by Chance Sun, Omaha closed out the season with another near miss in the Junior Champion Stakes, losing by a head to Sailor Beware.
Omaha's entire two-year-old campaign could be summed up with two words: 'Closed fast.'
In the spring of 1935, Omaha won an allowance race at Aqueduct, and then ran a strong third in the Wood Memorial, losing place money by only a nose. He went to post as the second choice in the Kentucky Derby, the favorite being Calumet Farm's Nellie Flag, a daughter of Man o' War's champion son American Flag and Nellie Morse, the filly who had won the 1924 Preakness Stakes. The Calumet filly was the first Derby mount of Eddie Arcaro, who later rode five horses to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
The field also included Wood Memorial winner Today, as well as runner up Plat Eye, Hopeful Stakes winner Psychic Bid, and Saratoga Special winner Boxthorn, who was third choice in the betting.
Omaha came from the outside to take the lead in the backstretch and went on to earn his roses by a length and a half. Nellie Flag, caught in traffic until late, finished fourth behind Roman Soldier and Whiskolo.
The Preakness Stakes was a week later. Warren Wright insisted that his filly would be dangerous, blaming traffic problems for her Derby finish. Dick Thompson, the trainer of Boxthorn, stated that his charge was much fitter for the Preakness than he had been at Churchill Downs, and Mrs. Sloane, who had won the previous year with Cavalcade, maintained some hope for Psychic Bid, although her trainer disagreed. "It wouldn't be very sporting not to start a horse this year simply because we think we can't win," she said.
All William Woodward would say to the press in answer to their comparisons between Omaha and his Triple Crown winning sire was that he hoped Omaha would be "just like him." They could not get the owner to commit as to whether he thought that likely.
Also thrown into the mix was Firethorn, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jeffords. The talk surrounding that colt primarily focused on the fact that jockey Wayne D. Wright had chosen him over his stablemate, Commonwealth, and that was taken as a sign that trainer Preston Burch thought his best shot was with the son of Sun Briar.
Omaha cantered home six lengths ahead of Firethorn, while Psychic Bid rewarded his owner's lukewarm faith with third money.
The son of Gallant Fox made his next start in the mile long Withers Stakes, and his length and a half loss to Rosemont, who later won the 1937 Santa Anita Handicap from Seabiscuit, created doubt as the Belmont approached.
On a rainy, gray Saturday in the month of June, Omaha met four others on a sloppy track at Belmont Park and attempted to follow in his sire's hoof prints by winning the Triple Crown. A.G. Vanderbilt's Cold Shoulder took the early lead, and Firethorn passed him as they came into the stretch. In a dramatic stretch drive, Omaha caught Firethorn to win going away and become the third winner of America's Triple Crown. Rosemont was third.
The next time out, Omaha finished third behind Discovery in the Brooklyn Handicap, and the loss cost him Horse of the Year honors as well as much respect, but then came the two races which were later considered to be the finest efforts in his career. Omaha won the Dwyer Stakes on June 29, equaling Man o' War's time in the process, and then took the Arlington Classic from E.R. Bradley's Black Helen, winner of the American Derby, in the impressive time of 2:01 2/5, breaking Sun Beau's stakes record. With the blazing victory over the champion filly, Omaha had finally gained status as a national hero. But it was the end of the Belair Bullet's American career, for he pulled up lame during a gallop at Saratoga. Upon his recovery, Omaha was sent to England to train for the Ascot Gold Cup. A postcard was sent in the name of his old Preakness and Belmont opponent Firethorn before he left. It read:
"Roll on, roll on, O Omaha the great. Be sure you make the British late, And I will try to fill your place. You'll bet they'll know they had a race."
Arriving in England, the striking colt impressed the British instantly with his size and good looks. He went into training with Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, and made his first start oversees on May 9 in the Victor Wild Stakes, over a mile and a half. He won by a length and a half. He then carried the burden of 130 pounds to victory in the two mile long Queen's Plate. The triumphs gained Omaha many foreign fans.
The Ascot Gold Cup was hard fought. Omaha dueled with the filly Quashed, one of Europe's finest stayers, for a half mile up Ascot's uphill homestretch, only to lose by a nose. He was also second by a neck in the Prince of Wales Stakes, carrying 138 pounds, while the Aga Khan's victorious Taj Akbar carried a mere 120 pounds. The British enthusiastically praised the courage he showed in the race. The American champion had run well despite an excessively soft track, poor riding, and his own profuse sweating in the paddock.
Omaha was the only American Triple Crown winner ever to cross the Atlantic, and his game battles earned the praise of the British. After he injured the tendon of his left foreleg in training, Omaha was sent back to the United States and retired to Claiborne Farm in June of 1937. The same year, his full brother Flares avenged his loss in the Ascot Gold Cup, winning the race in the colors of Belair Stud.
Retired to stud, Omaha stood first at Claiborne, siring seven stakes winners. In 1943, he was leased to the Jockey Club's Lookover Stallion Station in Avon, New York, and finally, in 1950 he was sent to Grove Porter's midwestern farm outside of the city whose name he bore. The big chestnut passed away in 1959 and is now buried at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In remembering the champion, the Daily Racing Form's great turf writer known by the pen name of Salvator wrote:
"In action he was a glorious sight; few thoroughbreds have exhibited such a magnificent, sweeping, space-annihilating stride, or carried it with such strength and precision. His place is among the Titans of the American turf."
Omaha was elected into the Hall of Fame in 19--. He also made Blood-Horse magazine's list of the century's top one hundred racehorses, ranking sixty-first. As of 2001, Omaha is the only Triple Crown winner to be sired by a Triple Crown winner.
|Gallant Fox||Sir Gallahad III||Teddy||Ajax|
|Maid of Erin|
|Flambino||Wrack||Robert le Diable||Ayrshire|
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