By John Pricci

HALLANDALE BEACH—The genesis of the first, and hopefully only, major disappointment associated with Kentucky Derby 145 began with a little cough.

A good horseman assumes nothing and reacts to learn more. And so a tube with the camera at the end was inserted into Omaha Beach's air passage in search of a problem; it didn't long before Hall of Fame trainer got his answer.

“After training this morning we noticed him cough a few times,” Mandella told Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form Wednesday night.

“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.”


If interested, tune into 1045FMTheTeam, guesting on "Rodger Wyland's Big Board Sports" scheduled for 11:15 am Friday


The condition occurs when a fold of tissue gets stuck and blocks the epiglottis that covers a horse's larynx. Without one, food would go down his windpipe, thus surgery is required.

And, so, for Mandella and owner Rick Porter, whose filly Eight Belles suffered the unthinkable in this race 11 years ago, "a chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance" evaporates, just like that.

There are lots of racetrack cliches trainers use in response to most any question. At times, trainerspeak is embarrassing. But when a horseman says "all we have to do between now and raceday is keep the horse happy and healthy," this is not idle messaging.

This was not intended to be today's lead, which was written before the news broke. It was supposed to be about how changes in track condition alter the handicapping dynamic; about the will-he-or-won't-he-bounce given a fast track and quick turnaround; a query that atmospherics may render moot.

It was supposed to be about whether or not Omaha Beach was beginning to enter the rarified air of greatness. Thankfully, he still will have time to prove that, only not this Saturday, not on America's biggest racing stage.

But the show will go on, there will be a new shooter in the starting gate, a maiden named Bode Express who chased Maximum Security around Gulfstream Park before finishing second in the Florida Derby, earning enough points to make an also-eligible list from which he would escape.

Haikal was withdrawn Friday morning as a matter of precaution after developing a foot bruise earlier this week. The colt currently is being treated and will recover fully in a matter of days; another routine issue that occurred at the worst time.

And so revised Derby selections are posted below, right under the Kentucky Oaks. It may be a new age but gentlemen will still prefer that ladies go first.


Below are the selections of three full-time staffers, a horseplaying regular contributor and the respected TimeformUS Mr. Everything. Additionally, we weighted their choices to reflect a consensus of opinion only found here:


Tom Jicha

1- Bellafina—Legit short price; kills Oaks-Derby double
2- Restless Rider—Always fires and likes Churchill
3- Out for a Spin—Dallas Stewart gets pieces of big races
4- Lady Apple—Winning-streak ends but could get a small share

Mark Berner

1- Bellafina is tractable in speedy field and won two stakes on a wet track.
2- Restless Rider was a neck short in return and should benefit from the effort.
3- Liora has been close with similar and pace scenario suits.
4- Lady Apple won prep, likes wet, and will provide value underneath.

Craig Milkowski, TimeFormUS

1- Restless Rider – Ran fastest career race in first start off a four month layoff, expecting top effort second off the bench.
2- Chocolate Kisses – Disappointed last out in Blue Grass country but should get a great pace set-up in this one
3- Champagne Anyone – Showed much improved early speed with the addition of blinkers in the Gulfstream Oaks
4- Bellafina – Likely favorite is the one to beat but disappointed in Juvenile Fillies and meets similar competition here


1- Jaywalk – 2YO Champion is back in shape
2- Lady Apple – Improving by leaps & bounds
3- Out For A Spin – Beat champ at KEE last out
4- Restless Rider – Also has beaten 2018’s top filly

John Pricci

1- Restless Rider will benefit from game Ashland placing, her season’s debut, and never worse than second in career; bad post helps price?
2- Lady Apple is 3-for-3 this year, 2-for-2 rounding two turns, and overcame stretch trouble on slower inside footing in Fantasy score.
3- Out for a Spin eligible to regress off huge forward move winning Ashland but has great foundation, tactical speed, pole and picks up Irad.
4- Bellafina has reacted thrice off fast efforts in the past; needs to prove she can duplicate form outside SoCal on relatively short rest at longer trip.

CONSENSUS (points awarded on 5-3-2-1 scale)



Tom Jicha

1-Roadster—Late rally in Santa Anita Derby to run down a champion was awesome. Keeps unbeaten 3YO streak alive.
2-Game Winner—Never worse than second so this might be short-changing the champ.
3- Tacitus—Had to fight to win Wood, a trait you like to see.
4- Vekoma—20-1 for Blue Grass winner. Have to have a saver at that price.
5-Improbable--Could Baffert run 1-2-3? Of course, he could.

Mark Berner

1- Vekoma impressed in win at Keeneland, running style suits pace scenario, and has smart recent work; wet-track pedigree.
2- Game Winner is the most impressive Baffert trainee and has never been worse than second
3- Improbable missed by a length to Omaha Beach on sloppy track at Oaklawn in failed experiment with blinkers on and has them removed today.
4- By My Standards is the hot horse on the work tab with good reason; buzz negates some value.
5- Haikal had a good prep in the Wood, trained well since, and is wet-track value play underneath.

Craig Milkowski, TimeFormUS

1 Tacitus – Has won his last three with strong finishes, and most importantly has been able to stay in range of very fast paces
2 Tax – Draws a good inside post but has tactical speed to avoid being shuffled back
3 Improbable – Yet to win in 2019 but should appreciate the removal of blinkers
4 Country House – Don’t consider this one a win contender but will be finishing late and be an exotics player
5 Game Winner – Two year old champ hasn’t been quite the same in 2019 but he’s had excuses in both tries


1- Maximum Security – Unbeaten FL Derby Winner moves up in mud
2- Improbable – Compromised in narrow AK Derby loss
3- Tacitus – Wood winner unbeaten as 3YO
2- Roadster – Santa Anita Derby winner unbeaten as 3YO
1- By My Standard – LA Derby winner still improving

John Pricci

1- Game Winner, fast from debut run, has never taken backward step, won 2YO title @ CD, has two good preps @3 and owns wet track pedigree
2- Vekoma won strongly run Blue Grass, earned competitively fast figure at 2, tactical speedster and can kick, two-sided wet pedigree and Castellano
3- Improbable, fast and no backward steps going long, benefits from two-prep campaign, hated blinkers are off, loves CD; Irad a glove fit
4- War of Will, early 3YO division leader, is fast, a powerful eyeful, viably forward via bounce-rebound pattern, loves wet CD, brilliant works; killer post
5- Tax, generally underrated, is tactically fast, a game late battler, inside post a plus, improved with Lasix and added ground, stout pedigree

CONSENSUS (points awarded on a 6-4-3-2-1 scale)