Entrapped Epiglottis Forces Favorite Omaha Beach Out of Kentucky Derby

Posted on: May 1, 2019, 04:18h. 

Last updated on: May 1, 2019, 04:34h.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Omaha Beach, the morning line favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, was scratched from the Triple Crown race the colt was diagnosed with an entrapped epiglottis.

Omaha Beach trains at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby week. The horse, who was the morning line favorite, was scratched from the race Wednesday evening. (Image: NewsandTribune.com)

Churchill Downs made the announcement on Twitter Wednesday evening. Track officials said the discovery was made after the Richard Mandella-trained horse was scoped. On Tuesday, the colt drew the No. 12 gate and received 4-1 odds from track handicappers.

The epiglottis is cartilage that sits at the base of the tongue. According to Equus Magazine, an inflammation in the horse’s airway can cause it to become trapped and stuck on other tissue.

It is uncertain how long the ailment will keep Omaha Beach out of competition. Mandella will meet with the media Thursday morning at the track.

Omaha Beach’s departure means Bodexpress will now enter the Derby field, keeping the race at 20 horses. It also means Game Winner, who lost to Omaha Beach in the Rebel Stakes, was the morning line second-choice with 5-1 odds.

Hall of Fame Trainer

Mandella, 68, has more than 1,700 racing wins to his credit, including nine wins in  Breeders’ Cup races and a victory in the Dubai Gold Cup. However, the one thing that has eluded him has been a win in a Triple Crown race.

His last Derby entries came 15 years ago.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, just like any other horse person,” Mandella told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. “We’ll see how things unfold. They only get one chance to run in the Derby, one day of their 3-year-old year career, so it’s got to come together that day or it doesn’t work. We’re hoping it’s coming together. So far so good.”

He started work as a trainer in 1976. The California native earned his induction into the U.S, Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.

Started on Turf

Omaha Beach started his racing career last year as a two-year-old on the turf. After not winning a race on the grass, Mandella moved him to the dirt this year, and the move paid off.

He won his first race, a maiden race at Santa Anita, in February be eight lengths. Mandella then put him in stakes competition, where he chased down Game Winner in the second division of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. A month later, he held off Improbable on a sloppy Oaklawn track to win the Arkansas Derby and cement his berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Both Improbable and Game Winner are trained by Bob Baffert, who won the Triple Crown with Justify last year. A five-time Derby winner, Baffert had the three horses immediately behind Omaha Beach in the morning line odds. Improbable and Roadster, who beat Game Winner in the Santa Anita Derby last month, were the co-third selections at 6-1.

After the Omaha Beach announcement, Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia adjusted the morning line odds to make Game Winner the 9-2 favorite. Improbable and Roadster are now 5-1 selections.

“If Baffert ran as an entry, he’d be a 7-5 favorite to win his sixth Kentucky Derby,” the oddsmaker said.

Jockey Mike Smith made the decision to ride Omaha Beach after the Arkansas Derby win. He also guided Roadster to the win at Santa Anita.

Florent Geroux is now slotted to ride Roadster on Saturday, getting the call from Baffert shortly after Smith made his choice.