LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Omaha Beach, scratched Wednesday from the 145th Kentucky Derby on Saturday because of an entrapped epiglottis, will have surgery Thursday afternoon but should be back in action by the summer, trainer Richard Mandella said at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning.
“We’ll wait a few days until after the surgery to make sure he’s good, then we’ll get him home,” Mandella said.
Mandella is currently based at Santa Anita. He spends the summer at Del Mar.
Omaha Beach will have surgery at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., with Dr. Rolf Embertson, Mandella said.
“He just has to trim the material,” Mandella said. “You get redundant material under the epiglottis.”
Mandella said if all goes well Omaha Beach would go right back into training and in theory could be ready to run by Belmont Day in five weeks.
“If the Belmont was a mile and and an eighth I’d be tempted, but I’m not going to beat him up to run a mile and a half after not running this week,” Mandella said. “I’ll find something.”
Mandella said major races for 3-year-olds like the Haskell at Monmouth and Travers at Saratoga this summer made the most sense for Omaha Beach. If Omaha Beach needs more time, one race Mandella said he’d love to point toward is the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens on Travers Day.
“Allen Jerkens introduced me when I went into the Hall of Fame,” said Mandella, who was inducted in 2001. “That would be something, to win that race.”
Not getting a chance to run in the Derby, though, hit hard. A well-wisher stopped by the barn on Thursday morning and tried to cheer up Mandella with platitudes like, “This story will have happy ending,” but having to scratch from the Derby with the morning-line favorite was still a bit raw.
“I kinda had my heart set on this,” Mandella said.
Mandella, 68, has run just six horses in the Derby over the years. He mused that Charlie Whittingham, whose old barn Mandella now occupies at Santa Anita, didn’t win the first of his two Derbies until he was 73.
“Who was I, expecting to outdo Charlie?” Mandella said, trying to cheer himself up.
Mandella said owner Rick Porter took the news well.
“How lucky am I that I call people with news like that and they feel more sorry for me?” Mandella said. “If I didn’t train for people like that I probably wouldn’t do this.”
Mandella said Omaha Beach was treated recently for a sore throat and he thought the issue was in the rearview mirror, “but it came back with a vengeance,” he said.
Porter on Wednesday said Omaha Beach had a little inflammation in his throat a week and a half ago, and that he was given antibiotics and it was 95 percent cleared up.
He said that on Tuesday, before Mandella entered the colt, Omaha Beach was scoped and was found to be entrapped, but he was entered anyway in the hope he could be treated. He said Embertson was called in to try and quickly alleviate the problem.
“He came down and tried to get it loose, and every time they tried to get it loose it flipped back the way it was,” Porter said.
“I can tell you it breaks my heart,” Porter, 78, said. “It breaks all my kids’ hearts. I was looking forward to it so much. Now, I’m looking to the future.”
Mandella said he was happy with the way Omaha Beach trained on Wednesday morning but that he sensed something amiss when Omaha Beach coughed later at the barn.
“He was coughing, which made us suspicious, and we scoped him,” Mandella said Wednesday afternoon.
Mandella said the issue is “fixable,” but the timing is terrible.
“He’ll miss two to three weeks of training,” Mandella said. “Alysheba had it a month before he won the Kentucky Derby. But we can’t fix it and run this weekend.”
Omaha Beach won the Arkansas Derby and a division of the Rebel Stakes in his last two starts and was favored for the Derby on the lines of both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs.
His defection allowed Bodexpress to draw in from the also-eligible list.
Mike Smith, who had ridden Omaha Beach in his last two starts, two weeks ago chose Omaha Beach for the Derby over Roadster, whom he had ridden to victory in the Santa Anita Derby. Florent Geroux picked up the mount on Roadster.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of Roadster, called Geroux soon after the Omaha Beach news broke to assure him there would be no change.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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