The Kentucky Derby will be a wide open race to the winner’s circle on Saturday after betting favorite Omaha Beach withdrew with just days to go due to a breathing issue.
Omaha Beach was a 4-1 favorite at Churchill Downs until Wednesday afternoon, when his trainer Richard Mandella said the horse had an entrapped epiglottis, a respiratory issue that can make racing difficult. The horse will have minor surgery and miss horse racing’s Triple Crown events.
"It's been a devastating thing, but we have to do what's right for the horse," Mandella told the Associated Press.
After the late scratch, Churchill Downs bookmaker Mike Battaglia installed Game Winner as the new morning-line favorite, with 9/2 odds of winning the 2019 Kentucky Derby, while Improbable and Roadster are each listed at 5/1 odds. All three horses were trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, who also trained last year’s Triple Crown winner, Justify.
The Kentucky Derby is one of the most popular betting events of the year. Last year, Churchill Downs took a record $149.9 million in wagers on the main event alone, an increase of 8 percent compared to the previous year.
The purse for this year’s race is $3 million, with the winner set to receive a payout of $1.86 million. This year marks the first time in 14 years that the purse has increased.
The 2019 Kentucky Derby will occur on Saturday.