Omaha Beach, the 4-1 morning-line favorite for the 145th Kentucky Derby, was scratched on Wednesday after developing a cough.
His throat was scoped, and he was found to have an entrapped epiglottis, a triangular-shaped flap of cartilage that lies at the base of the airway, the trainer Richard Mandella said. Omaha Beach will undergo a procedure to correct the condition in the next few days, he said.
Mandella, a well-liked trainer with a Hall of Fame plaque but no Derby trophy, came into the race with perhaps his best shot to win after six previous tries. His mood was upbeat as he greeted onlookers Wednesday morning after Omaha Beach, the Arkansas Derby winner last month, returned from the track. But Mandella, a California-based trainer, knows well that there is no sure thing in horse racing, especially during a year in which his home track, Santa Anita Park, has grappled with 23 horse deaths in three months.
Mike Smith, who won the coveted Triple Crown last year aboard Justify, gave up the mount on Roadster, a talented colt trained by the two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert, to ride Omaha Beach, believing he was the horse to beat.
The withdrawal was a major blow to Omaha Beach’s owner, Rick Porter, who recently battled cancer. Porter also endured the breakdown of his filly Eight Belles in the 2008 Derby immediately after she finished second. “This might be my last shot,” he said last week of what would have been his sixth Derby try.
Of Mandella, Porter said, “He’s done just about everything else in horse racing, and, you know, he wants it as much as anybody could ever want anything.”
With the scratch, Bodexpress will enter the field and break from Post 20. All horses outside of Omaha Beach (post positions 13 to 20) will move over one position in the starting gate.