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Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach scratched from race

Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach scratched from race
Exercise rider Taylor Cambra rides Kentucky Derby entrant Omaha Beach during a workout at Churchill Downs on May 1. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Omaha Beach, the favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, was pulled from the race late Wednesday afternoon after it was discovered he had an entrapped epiglottis, a throat condition that can hinder breathing.

The Richard Mandella-trained colt turned heads recently with a convincing win in the Arkansas Derby. He was the 4-1 morning-line favorite before scratching from the race.

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“After training [Wednesday] morning we noticed him cough a few times,” Mandella said. “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 [he’ll] probably be out of training for three weeks. We’ll have to figure out a whole new game plan.”

The condition is not considered serious or career ending.

The absence of Omaha Beach means trainer Bob Baffert has the top three favorites, according to the morning line. Game Winner is now 9-2, followed by stablemates Roadster and Improbable at 5-1. Maximum Security and Tacitus were moved to 8-1.

Baffert, by text, expressed his sympathies to the connections of Omaha Beach and also said he plans to keep Florent Geroux on Roadster. Jockey Mike Smith rode both Omaha Beach and Roadster but elected to take the mount on the Mandella colt.

While no jockey changes are planned, if Geroux were to voluntarily get off Roadster to allow regular rider Smith on the horse, the owners would have to pay two jockeys based on the finish of the horse.

The scratch moves Roadster and Game Winner up a slot in the gate to the 15th and 16th spots. Roadster was in the 17, a post from which no horse has won the Kentucky Derby. The loss of Omaha Beach also allows Bodexpress to join the 20-horse field from the far outside post.

Game Winner, the new favorite, is owned by Gary and Mary West of San Diego. The colt was purchased in the Keeneland sale as a yearling for $100,000. He has earned more than $1.8 million so far in his very young career.

“Very sorry to hear that,” Gary West said. “The same thing happened to me with a horse named Buddha many years ago, so I personally know how disappointing this is to all the Omaha Beach connections. I hope the horse is going to be OK. I’m genuinely disappointed for racing.”

Buddha was the second choice in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. He had to be scratched when he suffered an injury either by stepping on a stone or twisting an ankle.

Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune continued to this report.

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