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.

Veterinarians at Lexington’s Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital performed the operation on Omaha Beach on May 3. He has been recovering at WinStar Farms and expected to fly home to California within days.

Omaha Beach’s trainers expected him to return to racing for the last half of the season.

Watch Omaha Beach’s Surgery

Watch the 4 minute surgery at Rood & Riddle. Note that the link will take you to a darkened video window exhibiting a “graphic warning”. Below the window, tap “uncover video” which clears the darkened screen so you can then watch the surgery.


This horse had surgery to correct Epiglottic Entrapment then went on to win the 1987 Kentucky Derby.

Can you name that horse?


Photo Courtesy: Four Footed Fotos