Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach scratched just a few days before the big race. Due to a fairly uncommon condition called epiglottic entrapment. The epiglottis is a triangular shaped cartilage at the base of the airway. It acts like a lid, flipping up and down protecting the horse’s airway as it swallows food. Epiglottic entrapment occurs when part of the epiglottis is caught in the underlying folds of tissue. The condition makes it hard for a horse to breath particularly so when training. Symptoms include abnormal breathing sounds, coughing, nasal discharge, head shaking and a reluctance to exercise. Trainers for Omaha Beach suspected the condition with a sudden onset of coughing. An endoscopic examination confirmed the issue.
Surgery is the normal course to correct epiglottic entrapment cutting away the offending tissue. The procedure used today was developed nearly a century ago by Dr. Robert McCully who treated Man o’War. Post surgical recovery includes anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics. Horses are given several weeks rest to recover before returning to work.
Omaha Beach’s trainers expected him to return to racing for the last half of the season.