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Trainer calls Omaha Beach’s Kentucky Derby scratch ‘devastating’

Kentucky Derby Preview
Trainer Richard Mandella looks on with Omaha Beach on May 2 after the horse was scratched from the Kentucky Derby.
(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

A day later, trainer Richard Mandella was still hurting after learning that his Kentucky Derby favorite, Omaha Beach, was not going to run because of a minor health issue.

“It was very devastating,” Mandella said of having to scratch Omaha Beach because of an entrapped epiglottis, an easily correctable condition that can hamper breathing. “It’s the Kentucky Derby and we came in here like we had it written on us, and it didn’t work.

“[Trainer] Mel Stute said it best once when he was interviewed about the Derby, and said, “I have got a lot of experience with disappointment.’ This game will do it to you.”

Mandella explained that Omaha Beach had coughed a couple of times while galloping and they decided to do an endoscope. Dr. Foster Northrop, Mandella’s veterinarian, discovered the condition and another vet was brought in to verify it.

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“I have done this for 45 years, so, I have seen the movie and starred in it,” Mandella, 68, said. “You know, that’s part of training horses. But I had a nice message from Arthur Hancock [of Claiborne Farm] and he said: ‘Charlie Whittingham was 73 when he won his first one.’ So, who am I to think I should be doing this now?”

Omaha Beach will be out of training for two to three weeks, which takes him out of any Triple Crown races. Mandella said he hasn’t made any plans as to the colt’s future.

“Saratoga could be a possibility,” Mandella said. “There’s a couple of races there. There’s the Haskell in New Jersey, the Pacific Classic in Del Mar. Breeders’ Cup at the end of the year is the obvious big goal.”

Bellafina better than trainer

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Simon Callaghan’s star 3-year-old filly Bellafina is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday. She has won six of eight starts, with seven of those races in Southern California. Bellafina is coming off an effortless 5 1/4-length win in the Santa Anita Oaks.

Luckily, she seems in top shape because Callaghan is on the mend after separating his shoulder in a fall at his rental home Wednesday.

“Excruciating pain for about an hour or so,” Callaghan said. “But they put it back in place and gave me some medication and everything’s going to be all right.”

Callaghan returned to the barn Thursday with his mobility was somewhat restricted.

“If I’m in the sling, I’m good,” Callaghan said. “It’s a bit tough trying to sleep without it, but we’ll manage. They tell me 10 days or so to get the swelling down, so I’ll get it all sorted out when I get back to California.”

As for Bellafina, she was good too.

“She’s doing really well,” Callaghan said. “She got over [the track] well. I’m very pleased with where she is coming into this race.”

New horse in race

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Bodexpress was the beneficiary when Omaha Beach was scratched. He is still a maiden in five races, but his second-place performance in the Florida Derby was enough to get him a plane ticket to Louisville, just in case.

“This horse is a good horse and he’s doing very, very good,” said trainer Gustavo Delgado. “You only have one chance.”

Chris Landeros gets the ride and it will be his first Derby.

“I’m ready, I’m excited and blessed to have the opportunity,” Landeros said. “I feel bad for the connections of Omaha Beach, but everything happens for a reason.”

On the fence

Haikal developed an abscess on his left front foot and is questionable for Saturday’s Derby.

“The shoe is off and we are soaking and icing it,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We will shoe him first thing in the morning and train him if able. The horse will tell us. We will either be in or out by [Friday] morning at scratch time.”


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