Kentucky Derby Favorite Omaha Beach Is Taken Out Just Days Before the Race: It's 'Devastating'

The star horse was found to be suffering from a medical condition that may take weeks to heal

Omaha Beach
Photo: John Voorhees/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

With just days to go, the Kentucky Derby just went through a big shake-up.

Omaha Beach, the 4-1 early favorite to win Saturday’s race, has been pulled from the event, his trainer Richard Mandella confirmed on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

After a persistent cough led the team to examine the thoroughbred, they discovered Omaha Beach was suffering from an entrapped epiglottis, which can cause difficulties in breathing and would have made competing in the Derby difficult, Mandella explained. An entrapped epiglottis only requires a minor operation to correct, but, unfortunately, it won’t be in time for the event.

“After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times,” the longtime horse trainer 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 probably be out of training for three weeks. We’ll have to figure out a whole new game plan.”

The Associated Press reported that Omaha Beach, who just turned 3 in April, will undergo surgery in Kentucky this week.

“It’s been a devastating thing, but we have to do what’s right for the horse,” Mandella said. “It’s such a disappointment, but we’ll fight again… We won’t be out a long time.”

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach. John Voorhees/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

Jockey Mike Smith, who rode Triple Crown winner Justify last year, is now out of the event with Omaha Beach’s absence.

“I’m a little bummed out, but the horse is OK and we’re going to be all right,” Smith told the AP. “The good news is it wasn’t anything that is life-threatening.”

While the race will go on, Mandella said he won’t be there to see it go down. Instead, he’ll return to Southern California before the gates open this weekend.

“I didn’t lose interest,” he told the AP, “but I don’t want to be here and watch it.”

The Kentucky Derby airs Saturday, May 4 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and 2:30 to 7:25 p.m. ET on NBC.

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