Richard Mandella, Omaha Beach Trainer: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Getty Trainer Richard Mandella looks on with Omaha Beach after Omaha Beach was scratched the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs due to an entrapped epiglottis.

Richard Mandella has just about every honor you could ask for with a horseracing trainer. His horses have provided him 2,134 victories over his 45-year training career. The only thing he lacks is a win in a Triple Crown event.

That honor will have to wait at least another month, as his front-line favorite Omaha Beach was forced to sit today’s Kentucky Derby due to entrapped epiglottis. The ensuing surgery (and at least 3-week recovery) means that the colt will also sit the Preakness on May 18 and possibly the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

Here’s what you need to know about Mandella, a Southern California native.

1. He Was “Devastated” by Omaha Beach’s Last-Minute Injury

Omaha Beach was not only seen by outsiders as the favorite. After winning this year’s Arkansas Derby by nine lengths, Mandella truly believed this colt was his best shot at a Kentucky Derby triumph in his long career.

When he had to talk to reporters about Omaha Beach stepping aside earlier this week, his attitude was understandably dispondent. A full video of his media availability can be found here at Blood Horse.

He told Ed McNamara of Newsday that it was the biggest disappointment of his career.

“I’d say yes, because the Derby is what it is,” the 68-year-old Hall of Famer said Thursday during a news conference at Churchill Downs. “The Derby is what everybody knows, and everybody in racing has the dream to win it. It seemed like everything was going so perfect. He couldn’t have been training any better, and I actually thought that this is too perfect. And it turned out it wasn’t perfect.

“Came flying in here like it was written on us, and it didn’t work. And it was devastating, to be honest.”

Mandella is 0-for-6 in the Derby and never better than 5th. Despite the devastation, he was ready with a joke.

“I had a nice conversation with [owner-breeder] Arthur Hancock,” Mandella said. “He said, ‘Richard, [trainer] Charlie Whittingham was 73 when he won his first Derby.’ So who am I to think I should be doing that now?”

2. He Hails From Altadena (Calif.) & Has Trained Horses Since 1974

Mandella was born on Nov. 5, 1950. According to his America’s Best Racing bio, he father Gene was a blacksmith in Beaumont (Calif.), a city of just over 36 thousand in Riverside County. He calls Altadena, a suburb of Los Angeles, his native home.

He started training horses as early as high school.

(Mandella) broke and galloped horses at Connie Ring’s neighboring Three Rings Ranch while in high school. He then worked for Farrell Jones on his California ranch and assisted Lefty Nickerson in New York before training privately for Roger Braugh in 1974. He opened a public stable in California in 1976.

3. He Has Earned at Least $1 Million Every Year Since 1981

Mandella is one of the more lucrative trainers in the entire horseracing circuit over the last four decades. Since he opened his public stable in 1976, he has earned nearly $140 million.

According to his Equibase Trainer Profile, he has earned at least $1 million every year since 1981. That includes a high of $8.87 million in 2003. That year’s winnings were fueled by winners in four of the eight Breeders’ Cup races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) with Pleasantly Perfect. The single-day haul was $4,564,040, considered the “richest day in trainer history.”

The other horses that year were Johar, Halfbridled, and Action This Day. Another highlight run for him started in 1996 and ended in 1998. He won six consecutive $1 million races in Southern California from the 1996 Hollywood Gold Cup through the 1998 Santa Anita Handicap.

This highly-successful career earned him a place in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

4. He Has a Friendly Rivalry with Fellow Southern California Native Bob Baffert

The best known face these days on the racing circuit is probably 5-time Derby winner Bob Baffert. He famously trained last year’s Triple Crown winner Justify, and like Mandella, his horses typically cut their teeth at Santa Anita Park in Altadena.

In fact, the two are literally neighbors, according to Baffert in an article by Blood Horse this past week.

“My barn is next to Richard’s barn,” Baffert said. “I see him every day. It’s amazing. He walks by my barn every day and sees all these signs (listing Baffert’s Derby winners), and now he’s got a big chance to get a sign of his own. It’s exciting. He’s a great horse trainer. Things happen for a reason. He’s been smiling so much, I didn’t know he had that many teeth.”

Mandella demonstrated that the two have a playful rivalry with his retort.

“When I got to Churchill, I had some people hosting me and they said, ‘That’s the tack room, Dick.’ When I looked in there, there was a pair of training wheels in there with a receipt signed by Bob Baffert.”

The counter?

“I’ve thrown two really good horses at him and his horse really dug in. Then he stole my jockey (Mike Smith). As a matter of fact, I came home and told my wife, Jill, and she said, ‘I just lost my Derby buzz.'”

5. Mandella Lives with His Wife Randi & His 2 Children

His America’s Best Racing profile states that his wife’s name is Randi. They have two children: a son named Gary and a daughter named Andrea. Gary is a lucrative trainer in his own right, earning over $11 million since he started competing horses in 2002.

Despite the sad news about Omaha Beach, Richard has been able to lean on the support of Randi, per Newsday.

He praised his wife, Randi.

“How do I handle this? The lady sitting in the middle of the room is the most wonderful person in the world,” Mandella said. “Been with me 50 years, been married 46 or 47.

“Last night she tied one of my legs down to the bed so I wouldn’t jump out the hotel window. And she’s got a little bucket. She’ll walk around, and if you throw a donation in there, it will help us get home.”

As Mandella, Omaha Beach and rider Mike E. Smith turn their attention to the Belmont Stakes next month (hopefully), Richard will surely look to his longtime wife for continued emotional support.

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