By Steve Sherack
LOUISVILLE, KY – Omaha Beach (War Front), forced to sit out Saturday’s GI Kentucky Derby with an entrapped epiglottis, is slated to undergo throat surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Thursday afternoon.
The GI Arkansas Derby had, “a little bit of a sore throat that was treated and went away” about a week ago, and, after coughing a couple of times during Wednesday morning’s gallop at Churchill Downs, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella had the Fox Hill Farms colorbearer scoped.
“It was devastating, to be honest,” Mandella said. “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.”
All systems were a go for Omaha Beach after working a jaw-dropping five furlongs in :59 (2/43) beneath the Twin Spires Apr. 27. He was subsequently tabbed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s ‘Run for the Roses’ at Tuesday’s draw.
“You couldn’t have asked a horse to train any better or look any better this whole period we’ve been here,” Mandella said. “You’ve all seen it. If you didn’t look up his nose with a scope, you wouldn’t know anything is wrong. But I’m sure by the time he’d hit the quarter pole, he would know [the entrapped epiglottis] was there, and it would be a terrible feeling.”
Omaha Beach will be out of serious training for at least two-three weeks. He is out of consideration for the entire Triple Crown series.
“Let me say he is a special horse,” Mandella said. “I mean, you watch him out there on the racetrack, he was galloping one day. And I said to somebody, I think it was Mike Smith, that he looks like Muhammad Ali when he’s going into the ring. He would just bounce and hardly touch the ground–float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”
Omaha Beach will be aimed at a summer campaign, culminating with the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
“Obviously what happens [Thursday] at the hospital and the next two weeks will fit into what I make plans, and Saratoga could be a possibility,” Mandella said. “There’s a couple of races there. There’s the Haskell in New Jersey, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Breeders’ Cup at the end of the year is the obvious big goal. We’ll find something else to do.”