Omaha: Like Father, Like Son

By Jenny Kellner

OmahaOmaha was one of only 18 foals from the first crop sired by Gallant Fox, and he came very close to filling the shoes of his famous father. Although he was chestnut, not bay, Omaha sported a striking blaze down his handsome face and also inherited his sire’s tall, leggy frame and penchant for speed.

And, much like his father, he came off an unremarkable freshman campaign to immediately stamp himself as a three-year-old to be reckoned with a powerful, four-length victory in an allowance at old Jamaica on April 22. The luster dimmed somewhat when five days later, he finished third in the Wood, and he went postward at Churchill Downs as the second choice to a filly, Nellie Flag, a daughter of Nellie Morse, the filly who won the 1924 Preakness Stakes, and a granddaughter of Man o’ War.

Caught in traffic, Nellie Flag would finish fourth as Omaha went onto an easy 1½-length victory over Roman Soldier to win the roses; a week later, he had an even easier time with a six-length romp in the Preakness Stakes, this time as the favorite.

On May 25, trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons entered Omaha in the one-mile Withers at Belmont Park, but the colt could manage only a second-place finish to Rosemont and doubts set in again.

Belmont Stakes day dawned gray and damp, and after day-long downpours the track was officially sloppy by post time. Four horses lined up against Omaha: Rosemont, Cold Shoulder, Firethorn, and Sir Beverley, and when the gates opened Omaha was shuffled back.  But jockey Willie Saunders quickly settled Omaha down, and, waiting patiently, finally sent the colt after Firethorn with three furlongs to go. Firethorn proved tough, fighting on through the stretch but eventually yielded as Omaha became the third Triple Crown winner by a 1½-length margin.

The Blood-Horse reported the scene thusly: “Amid hearty cheering, Saunders brought Omaha back to the winner's circle, the victory being the most popular of the day. There, despite a driving rain, waited Omaha's owner, William Woodward, and the New York banker led in, for the second time in his Turf career, a horse which had won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in his colors. The first, in 1930, was Gallant Fox, sire of the present 3-year-old champion, now indisputably at the top of his division. Omaha was the third horse to complete the triple, Sir Barton having accomplished the feat in 1919, and was the first to be sired by a horse which had won the three events.”

Despite the achievement, Omaha failed to garner Horse of the Year honors; that award went to Discovery, who would defeat Omaha in the Brooklyn Handicap later in June.

Following victories in the Dwyer and the Arlington Classic, owner William Woodward sent Omaha abroad, where he won the Victor Wild Stakes and the Queen’s Plate at Kempton Park, losing the Ascot Gold Cup and the Princess of Wales stakes by a nose and a neck, respectively. He was returned to the United States to stand at stud at Claiborne, and in 1950, was sent to Grove Porter's farm in Nebraska. He was often taken to Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, paraded around the infield, and photographed with several small children on his back. 

He was buried in the racetrack’s Circle of Champions when he died in 1957 at the age of 27.  In 1995, when the track closed, the land was taken over by the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and his grave is now next to a home economics and culinary arts building. When a cooking project fails, the unfortunate student is told to "Give it to Omaha" – in other words, throw it out the window.

Click here to view the 1935 Belmont Stakes results chart