Horse Racing
Katherine Terrell, ESPN Staff Writer 44d

Omaha Beach to have surgery for breathing issue

Horse Racing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Trainer Richard Mandella said Omaha Beach, who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby on Wednesday, will have surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on Thursday to correct a breathing issue that forced him out of the race.

Omaha Beach, who was the morning line favorite for the Derby, has an entrapped epiglottis, which means that swollen tissue in his throat had constricted his breathing enough so that running a race would be impossible.

"Sending him out to run Saturday would've been like sending him to war with a switch in his hand," Mandella said.

Mandella, who addressed the media at his barn on Thursday and spoke again later in the morning, said he took the news hard on Wednesday but was already turning the page by Thursday. Despite his somber mood, he couldn't help but crack a few jokes.

"I'm good today," Mandella said. "Little bit tough yesterday. I told somebody in front of the stall, 'It's a tough pill to swallow,' and the horse leaned over and said, 'You think it's tough for you? I've got a sore throat!'"

Mandella said Omaha Beach was scoped after his gallop on Wednesday because he was persistently coughing, in addition to having a throat issue 10 days earlier that was treated but returned. Mandella said Omaha Beach will be fine, but the timing prevented the problem from being fixed for the race.

"It's a very common ailment," he said. "I don't know that the doctors would agree, but I think it tends to come in the spring of the year when there's a lot of pollen and allergies around."

Mandella, who has never won the Kentucky Derby, has run into some bad luck lately. His champion mare Beholder was scratched before the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2015 due to illness.

"I think I might be allergic to the Derby," Mandella joked.

He later said: "It was devastating, to be honest, yesterday. I have done this for 45 years. So I have seen the movie and starred in it. You know, that's part of training horses. But I had a nice message from Arthur Hancock yesterday, and he said: 'Richard, [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 pulled off the Triple Crown trail completely due to the timing but could come back in the late summer or fall. The Haskell Invitational, Travers Stakes and Pacific Classic could be potential targets.

Spendthrift Farm recently reached an agreement to acquire Omaha Beach's stud rights. Mandella said he hadn't seen the contract but believed there might have been an incentive for winning the Derby.

"I do believe there was a pretty big kicker if he won the Derby. So I might have saved Mr. [Wayne] Hughes money," he said of the Spendthrift owner.

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