Kentucky Derby favourite Omaha Beach scratched

The race will take place May 4 at Churchill Downs

Suddenly, the Kentucky Derby is wide open.

Favourite Omaha Beach was scratched because of a breathing problem Wednesday night, leaving a pair of Hall of Famers on the sideline — trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Mike Smith.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia revised the morning line to make Game Winner the 9-2 favourite for the 1 1/4-mile race Saturday.

Improbable and Roadster were installed as the co-second choices at 5-1, giving five-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert the top three choices in the 20-horse field.

Mandella told The Associated Press that Omaha Beach developed a cough and a subsequent veterinary exam showed the colt has an entrapped epiglottis. It’s generally not life- or career-threatening and is typically corrected with minor surgery.

READ MORE: Neglected horse finds new home in Maple Ridge

“It’s been a devastating thing, but we have to do what’s right for the horse,” said Mandella, who has never won the Derby with six previous starters.

The trainer said Omaha Beach will have surgery in Kentucky in the next few days and will be sidelined for two to three weeks. The ordeal will knock him off the Triple Crown trail.

“It’s such a disappointment, but we’ll fight again,” Mandella told the AP. “We won’t be out a long time.”

The scratch was another blow to cancer survivor Rick Porter, the colt’s 78-year-old owner. He has twice finished second in the Derby, in 2007 with Hard Spun and the following year with filly Eight Belles, who broke her ankles past the finish line and had to be euthanized.

“He’s a great sport,” Mandella said. “I’ve got very good support.”

Omaha Beach had been the 4-1 early favourite.

Mandella’s dry sense of humour came out when he said, “My wife has my leg tied down so I can’t jump out of the window.”

Smith had chosen to ride Omaha Beach instead of Roadster and now he won’t have a chance to win the Derby for the second straight year. He rode Justify to victory last year.

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

Smith has three mounts on Friday’s card at Churchill Downs and five Saturday.

“I’ll be rooting for Roadster’s connections big-time,” he said. “I’ll be a glorified cheerleader.”

Omaha Beach galloped Wednesday morning without problem and Mandella said everything was fine. But that changed by late afternoon when the exam showed the cough was more than a minor irritation.

The condition can indicate the start of a virus, a sore throat or a sore in somewhere in the horse’s soft palate.

Omaha Beach’s scratch moves Bodexpress into the field in the No. 20 post.

Mandella said he would likely return to Southern California before the Derby.

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

It’s not the first time the Derby has lost a favourite leading up to the race.

In 2009, I Want Revenge became the first morning-line favourite to scratch the day of the race because of a hot spot on his ankle.

Beth Harris, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Belgian man searches for family of fallen First World War soldier from Victoria

Mark Edward Berton attended Victoria High School and has his grave in Flanders Field

Oak Bay artist co-op highlights autobiographical Snapshots showcase

Snapshots runs from June 4 to 22 at Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave.

Saanich preschool celebrates 30 years with reunion event

Thousands invited RSVP for Carrot Seed Preschool 30-year celebration

Sidney Museum’s Chief Dan George exhibition sees surge of interest

Four mayors, federal Green leader, Tsartlip reps to attend June 21 opening ceremony

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

REPLAY: The best videos from across B.C. this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week in the province

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon’s trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen found in torched SUV

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

Most Read