Even money favorite Omaha Beach scratches from Pegasus World Cup


Heavy favorite Omaha Beach has been scratched from the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (Jan. 25, 4:30-6 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App) “out of an abundance of caution” due to swelling in his right hind leg, Gulfstream Park announced on Thursday. Mike Smith was set to ride.

“It was observed this morning that Omaha Beach had light swelling in his right hind fetlock,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “While we are disappointed to have to miss the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Omaha Beach’s safety and well-being comes first and we wanted to do what was best for him.  He has been a great pleasure to have around the barn and we are grateful for the opportunity to train such a magnificent horse.”

The 4-year-old colt had odds upgraded from 7/5 to an even 1/1 after Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run scratched earlier this morning. Of the original field of 12 horses, only 10 will break from the gate on Saturday.

Omaha Beach won the Arkansas Derby last year and was the early Kentucky Derby favorite, but was scratched due to an entrapped epiglottis. After recovering from surgery, he won the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1) in October, took second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November and finished 2019 with a win in the G1 Malibu Stakes.

The Pegasus World Cup, which is headed by the Stronach Group, was expected to be his last race before heading to stud at Spendthrift Farm. His connections haven’t said whether he will aim for a later race. Omaha Beach is a finalist for the Eclipse Award for 3-Year-Old Male, which will be announced tonight.

“We appreciate the willingness of Mr. Mandella to put the safety of Omaha Beach above all else,” Stronach Group Chairman and President Belinda Stronach said. “His decision was the right thing to do and reflects the new standard of care set for this year’s Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series.”

The field is now wide open without Omaha Beach and Spun to Run. Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto now leads the field. The 4-year-old colt drew the No. 10 post position in yesterday’s draw. Mucho Gusto has five wins in 10 starts, but hasn’t won since June, when he took the Affirmed Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. Most recently, he finished fourth in the Oklahoma Derby (G3). This will be his first start at Gulfstream.

Other competitors include John Sadler’s Higher Power and Preakness runaway Bodexpress. Below are odds (which haven’t changed since Spun to Run scratched) and revised post positions for Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup.

$3 million Pegasus World Cup post positions and odds as of Jan. 23:

  1. True Timber (15-1)
  2. Tax (8-1)
  3. Diamond Oops (15-1)
  4. Seeking the Soul (30-1)
  5. Omaha Beach — SCRATCHED
  6. Higher Power (6-1)
  7. War Story (30-1)
  8. Mr Freeze (20-1)
  9. Spun to Run — SCRATCHED
  10. Mucho Gusto (9-2)
  11. Tenfold (30-1)
  12. Bodexpress (30-1)

Watch the Pegasus World Cup on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Saturday, January 25 from 4:30 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.