Omaha Beach is out of the Kentucky Derby, but don't count him out later this summer, his trainer Richard Mandella told media Thursday. Wednesday, news broke that the predicted Derby favorite was scratched from the race due to an entrapped epiglottis, which should be corrected by surgery that was planned Thursday at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
Mandella said Omaha Beach had a sore throat eight or ten days ago, which was treated with a throat wash and seemed to go away until the horse coughed during his Wednesday gallop. Though his attitude and performance during the gallop was unchanged from previous mornings, a scope revealed the entrapped epiglottis.
According to Dr. Foster Northrop, an entrapped epiglottis can happen when the tissue beneath it has swollen and popped up, wrapping around the epiglottis and preventing it from moving as normal. It's estimated to cause about a 30 percent reduction in airway function while the horse works. Northrop said it's possible to treat the tissue swelling without surgery, but once entrapment occurs, surgery is the best option.
The surgery is minimally invasive and can often be done while the horse is standing and heavily sedated, negating the need for full anesthesia.
Mandella estimated the colt would miss two weeks of training, which would rule out a run in the Preakness or Belmont, but summer classics like the Haskell or the Pacific Classic would be on the table.
The news dealt a heavy blow to Hall of Famer Mandella, who has yet to win the Kentucky Derby, but the trainer said Thursday he was grateful the problem became apparent before the Derby and not after.
“This is unique. It's the Kentucky Derby. Came flying in here like we had it written on us, and it didn't work. So Mel Stute said it best once when he was interviewed about the Derby or whatever it was, and he said, 'I have got a lot of experience with disappointment. This game will do it to you.'
“As broken‑hearted as I was yesterday, I would be a lot worse than that had I run him and he ran up the racetrack and I'd be kicking myself forever, 'Why did I do this?'” he said. “Again, our players can't talk to us. We have to use instincts, little signs that we see. Hopefully a veterinarian that knows something. And occasionally things get past us. But we all do the best we can, but it means the world to us to what our horse's condition is.”
See the full press conference here, courtesy of the Kentucky HBPA:
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