By Richard Rosenblatt
The $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) took a 1-2 punch on Thursday when the top two horses – favorite Omaha Beach and second choice Spun to Run — were scratched from an already depleted field.
First it was Spun to Run, who had been listed as 7-2 on morning-line. The Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner was withdrawn due to a skin rash. Later in the day, Omaha Beach, at the time down to even-money, was scratched with what appears to be the start of right hind leg fracture.
“He went out for a gallop this morning, cooled out great, but we noticed something else,” Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said. “We X-rayed his right hind ankle. It’s questionable what’s there, but it looks like it might be the beginning of a cannon-bone fracture.”
This was to be the final race of Omaha Beach’s start-crossed career before he is returned. But now, his final race ended with a victory in the Malibu Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, closing out a career full of setbacks but with a stellar record of 10-5-4-1 that included three Grade 1 wins and a runner-up finish to Spun to Run in the BC Dirt Mile.
“We can’t take a chance,’’ 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.”
Almost nine months earlier, Omaha Beach was the Kentucky Derby (G1) morning-line favorite, but he had to be withdrawn three days before the race because of an entrapped epiglottis, a throat ailment that required surgery. He missed the Triple Crown series and didn’t race again until early October.
The 4-year-old son of War Front, who was raced by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms, will go to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, to begin his stallion career.
Juan Carlos Guerrero, who trains Spun to Run, said the 4-year colt developed hives on his body a few weeks ago, and remains “hot and sore” and not in condition to run.
“After he came to Palm Meadows (Training Center) we noticed he was a little hot so we clipped his hair,” said Guerrero. “Then two weeks later we noticed some spots, hives on his body. We wanted to run, but he’s a little hot and sore and we always want to do the right thing for the horse. It’s unfortunate, but we want the best for him.”
A full field of 12 is now down to 10, with Mucho Gusto, a latecomer to the field, the likely favorite after being the third choice on Wednesday’s morning line at 9-2. The scratches leave Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and Mike Smith without rides for the World Cup.
Other horses who were invited to the race but the connections chose not to run include Maximum Security, McKinzie and Roadster.
The first three winners of the Word Cup were Arrogate (2017), Gun Runner (2018) and City of Light (2019). Two were the favorites, Arrogate ($3.80) and Gun Runner ($4.20), while City of Light was the second choice ($5.80).
In the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Magic Wand is the 7-2 morning-line favorite for trainer Aidan O’Brien. The 5-year-old mare drew the outside No. 12 post, and will be ridden by Ryan Moore. Without Parole, one of three entries from trainer Chad Brown, is the 4-1 second choice leaving from the No. 3 post with Frankie Dettori aboard.
In last year’s inaugural World Cup Turf, Bricks and Mortar was the winner en route to a perfect 6-0 season.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.