Omaha Beach was once the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby but will not be competing in today’s race at Churchhill Downs. What happened to Omaha Beach?
The horse was scratched with just days to go before the Kentucky Derby after he was discovered to have an entrapped epiglottis. Instead of preparing to race, the horse was forced to have surgery on his throat.
“I talked to Dr. Embertson and he was very happy with the surgery,” Omaha Beach’s owner Rick Porter told Blood Horse. “He removed loose skin behind the epiglottis. It’s a done deal. It couldn’t have gone smoother.”
The injury prevented Omaha Beach from breathing properly and running the horse at the Kentucky Derby would have put him at risk for further injury. Omaha Beach’s trainer Richard Mandella detailed what the team observed from the horse that caused them to be concerned.
“After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times,” Mandella said in a press release. “It caused us to scope him and we found an entrapped epiglottis. We can’t fix it this week so we’ll have to have a procedure done in a few days and probably be out of training for three weeks. We’ll have to figure out a whole new game plan.”
Churchill Downs PR provided a brief overview of the epiglottis.
“Epiglottis: A triangular-shaped cartilage that lies at the base of the airway just in front of the arytenoid cartilages which cover the airway during swallowing. It is normally located above (dorsal) the soft palate,” Churchill Downs tweeted.
Here is a look at a photo of the epiglottis.
Omaha Beach Is Unlikely to Run in Either the Preakness or Belmont
Omaha Beach’s team held a press conference on the day of his surgery. The horse appears unlikely to run in any of the Triple Crown races. According to Blood Horse, Omaha Beach could return to training in two to three weeks and may be able to race again by the end of the year.
Optimistic estimates have Omaha Beach returning to training within two or three weeks, with the possibility of returning to be a force in grade 1 races such as the Haskell Invitational, Travers, and Pennsylvania Derby as well as other major year-end events.
Jockey Mike Smith chose to ride Omaha Beach over the trio of Bob Baffert trained horses. Unfortunately, the horse was scratched too late for him to end up back on Roadster’s mount.
“I’m a little bummed out, but the horse is OK and we’re going to be all right,” Smith said, per ESPN. “The good news is it wasn’t anything that is life-threatening…I’ll be rooting for Roadster’s connections big-time. I’ll be a glorified cheerleader.”
Smith ended up getting added to Cutting Humor so will be riding in the Kentucky Derby after all. Smith rode Justify in 2018 on his way to the Triple Crown.